Recently a constituent sent a letter to me at my public tetonwyo.org account:
I had seen you as a strong conservationist, someone with dedication and vision.
It seems that now what we are seeing is a very, very different person. Develop
Federal land alongside and in the bed of The Snake River, where your No vote
was just buying time to cut a deal with “stakeholders”. Develop Federal USFS
land for dense housing developments, pandering to housing “stakeholders”.
Our current version of a Sagebrush Rebel. But a lot of your supporters may rebel,
At some point in the past, my triple passions for skiing, mountains and the mysteries of snow led to a stint as a heli-ski guide. The mountains (Chugach in Alaska) were beautiful and vast. The skiing on good days was unparalleled. On bad days—well I’ve never skied saastrugi up to my knees outside of that terrain. The helis were a rush, but loud as hell.
For six days a week, 10 weeks a year, my job was to lead a small group of generally highly competent skiers down six, often more, avalanche slopes a day. On occasion a very low prior estimate of the probability that a slope would avalanche during a descent would quickly become exactly 100% that it WOULD avalanche once I was in the middle of the slope. Twice I was involved in situations that could have been quite dire, or “non-trivial,” as a mountain mentor, Renny Jackson, likes to say. My mis-read of the snow pack could have resulted in trauma, possibly death.
Putting my butt in harm’s way so a few people every week could get their skiing ya-ya’s, no matter how pristine the powder and no matter how gob-smacking the scenery seems ludicrous in hindsight. But when that’s how you bring home the bacon in what would otherwise be an off-season of pounding (crooked) nails, it seemed the highest and best use of my God-given abilities. And by far the more lucrative of the options.
Apparently I didn’t learn much. Now, trying to serve a community and citizenry I care deeply for, my butt again seems to be in harm’s way. At least on paper it appears to be getting shot at from several sides at once—kayakers who seem to think not having a wave to surf close to town will measurably hasten climate change, youth mentors who now seem to think I’m depriving our community’s youth of opportunities to interact with the river and, apparently conservationist(s) (or however you would like to refer to yourself) who think I sold them down the river.
However, versus my heli-ski days, there’s no pain involved. No trauma. No death.
This job, my commissioner job, I find not only every bit as mentally taxing as trying to understand the mysteries of snow, but far more satisfying. Even when, or maybe especially when, my butt is in harm’s way. Because no matter how bad a day I have as a commissioner, I’m walking away from it pain free, intact, alive, and knowing that I’ve tried something extremely challenging for an introspective geek most at home on some distant peak as far away from people as possible.
Thank you for keeping my job interesting. And though you’re off-base in your assessment of my position on the wave park, and though comparing me to a Sagebrush Rebel is a stretch (I’m pretty sure), the remarkable thing about remaining pain free is that I have no reason to not continue to consider you a friend.
Take care and enjoy all that our wonderful world has to offer.