The Right to Roam

April 13, 2018

Ever since private property came into existence in America with the Europeans fencing in land, there have been people there to fight for ownership of the land. This mainly started with the Native Americans who didn’t want to be pushed from their traditional hunting grounds “We do not own the freshness of the air or the sparkle of the water. How can you buy them from us?” said the Great Chief Seattle. The concept of owning mother earth to them was impossible to comprehend, as all living things needed her to live.

This notion of land control we have today developed gradually into the form of private property, whereby a tract of land is legally owned by the person who bought or inherited it. But then there is the concept of public lands, where theoretically all citizens of a nation hold title to land to be put towards common use. This system closely mimics the original Native American system of tribal common use. Whereby all members of a band of Natives may use the tract of land currently in that tribe’s control. Only in this case the tribe is the U.S. In the Western U.S.. common land is not a problem with our vast array of national parks, Forest Service, and BLM contingents taking over the maintenance of public lands.

But in the east, public land is a problem. According to backpacker Magazine “The far more populous states on the East Coast-say, the original 13 colonies plus Washington, D.C.- have 30 percent of the population but only 3.2 percent of the public land.” So people in the eastern U.S have very little area to go and experience the wilderness, even though their population is extremely large, which for people from the east must suck, as for them to experience the majority of the United States public land. they must travel to the west of the Rockies. That costs a lot of money and takes a lot of time which many people don’t have. That’s where the right to roam law comes into play. In Scotland, where approx. 80% of the land is owned by 400 private individuals (due to the land being seperated in this way during feudal times), there is a law in place that allows for people to travel across private property. What it allows you to do is go across big open tracts of Scottish wilderness. You aren’t allowed on people’s lawns or in their house, but you can go into undeveloped regions in the Scottish countryside. If we were able to utilize this law in certain parts of the east, we could give access to many new camping and hiking grounds to people who have never really had them before. And since I have a love for America’s public lands I think we should all get a chance to enjoy them. Just an idea to consider to improve the quality of life for people in the eastern U.S.


Photo By: Minot Air Force Base

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