Weyco wrong to charge for access
This is an open letter to the leaders of Weyerhaeuser.
The residents of the North River Artic country have received word that you are closing the North River lands to us unless we pay you $250 for rights to enter. This is land that our families have hunted and fished for decades; for those among us who are native to this place, our families have hunted and fished here forever.
We are not wealthy people who can afford to pay you. We live close to the land and depend on hunting, fishing, gardening and gathering to keep our families fed. Not only our life-ways, but our lives depend on access to these hills and streams.
We gather berries. We gather mushrooms. We hunt deer and elk. We fish. And we do this for the sake of our families. We clear trash, report abuses, repair roads — for the sake of the land itself. It is a long-lasting relationship of reciprocity and gratitude. And now, what has been a way of life for the local families has been transformed into a commodity — for sale to the wealthy people. You might as well sell our families, because your financial decision will force us to disperse. Where will we go? We cannot stay.
The arguments you give in defense of this plan ring false in our ears.
Don’t talk to us about your private property rights. Do you claim to own the fish in the rivers or the elk that graze in ferns?
Don’t talk to us about risk or insurance costs. Closing the forest risks our access to food, and so puts our families and culture at risk.
Don’t talk about you obligations to shareholders. We are your neighbors and the stewards of this land, and your moral responsibilities to us are strong.
We call on you to change your plans to shut down our access to the land. We propose instead a program that allows affordable access to those who have traditionally hunted these hills to feed their families.
John S. Moore