Readers of National Geographic Magazine were treated this month
to an interesting article titled Unplugging the Selfie
Generation, about the challenges and rewards of getting young
people into our National Parks – what does "back to
nature" mean to a generation reportedly more interested in
technology than in backcountry hikes. Upslope Brewing Co., as
the name implies a craft brewery based in Boulder, Colorado, may
have stumbled (pun intended) on one way to lure people to the wilds
– throw a beer party! As reported in the Denver Post,
Upslope Brewing drew about 2,000 thirsty hikers to a backcountry
hut near Leadville where it hosted its second annual
"backcountry tap room." The line for a free
beer at the privately owned Vance's Cabin stretched half a mile
over White River National Forest trails and the crowd, mostly
younger visitors, cheerfully waited for an hour sipping beer and
generally having a great time (dogs included of course – this
is Colorado!). As described by the Denver Post – "a
quintessential contemporary Colorado scene."
The fun was made possible in part by the Forest Service's
recent revisions to its recreation permit process, intended to
encourage access to public lands. Under the new process,
special-use permit applications are streamlined, making it simpler
and faster to obtain permits, staff capacity is being increased to
handle the applications, the permit process is being standardized
across the country and local Forest Service managers are encouraged
to waive the permit requirements altogether when a proposed use
would have only a nominal impact. In the case of the
backcountry beer bash, it took Upslope Brewing only a couple of
days to apply for and obtain a one-time special use permit when it
became apparent that the hikers would traverse Forest Service land
to make it to the party.
The changes to the permitting process are intended to make it
easier for outfitters, guides, schools, non-profits and others to
take groups out to enjoy outdoor activities on public lands,
increasing the potential for access for all. Given that
outdoor recreation on public lands contributes $13 billion to the
national economy and supports over 200,000 jobs, predominantly in
rural communities, increased access is welcome – and even
more so when beer is involved!
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