and Greg Lemhouse

and Greg Lemhouse

"Mt. Ashland opponents call for boycott: Business sponsors of programs unrelated to the ski area expansion also would be targeted"

— Mail Tribune headline, Sept. 28

The two of us have come together to write this piece because we independently had the same reaction to that headline: amazed disappointment that the sharply divisive issue of Mount Ashland expansion has come to this. Our personal views on the expansion itself have no bearing on our strong shared opinion that this announced boycott is a startlingly bad idea. That's true whether you're staunchly for or against expansion, or, like most of us, somewhere in between.

The intent of this campaign is to economically punish local businesses that help fund recreational programs on the mountain, often for kids with no other opportunity to participate. These businesses are motivated by some combination of generosity and the benefit of positively positioning their businesses. That blend is a prime fuel for building strong, healthy communities in our valley and across the nation.

A leading opponent of Mount Ashland expansion says the process has reached a point "where we have no choice except to boycott." That speaks both to the frustration and undeniable passion opponents bring to their cause. It also, in our view, ignores three interrelated points.

The first, simply and most obviously, is the staggering economy. Most local businesses are battling increasingly tough odds to provide for their families, to keep their doors open and their people employed. Expansion opponents who care about long-term sustainability, curbing the power of "corporate globalism" and reducing carbon footprints must understand that we make progress on none of those fronts without growing a network of viable local businesses.

The organizers probably pride themselves on keeping in view long-term impacts, the all-important Big Picture. We question whether that's true in this case.

These environmentalists are validating the toxic stereotype of environmentalism as a kind of rabid fundamentalism that has no concern for anyone or anything other than achieving a narrow current goal. One of us spent a lot of time 20 years ago defending forest activists against charges that they couldn't care less about suffering timber families, that owls were more important to them than hungry children. Some of those critics must be reading about this boycott with satisfied smiles, because it reinforces the impression of environmental protection as a zero sum game, where one is either all in or an opponent.

As a result of these two points, we think this boycott is bound to fail. It's most likely to set back its own cause, and even causes its organizers take up in the future.

One likely target of the boycott reports a series of calls from people who say they've never used his product, but have now decided to order up healthy quantities for gifts to their friends. We wouldn't be at all surprised if some of these new customers have mixed or even negative views about the expansion.

We have an appreciation for the passion that has led to boycott plans. That level of dedication to a cause and the courage to stand up for an authentic belief deserve respect. But the resulting strategic decision doesn't.

We are still neighbors, still dependent upon one another to varying degrees and in varying ways. Each of us is obliged to balance our personal beliefs with a broader responsibility to protect and strengthen our communities.

We respectfully ask leading expansion opponents to revisit their calculation of the best course of action for the local economy, the larger community and their own strategic goals, and to withdraw their call for a boycott of Mount Ashland's business supporters.

Greg Lemhouse is an Ashland city councilman and liaison to the Ashland Forest Lands Commission. Jeff Golden is an activist for local self-reliance, the author of "UNAFRAID: A Novel of the Possible," and producer/host of Immense Possibilities (www.immensepossibilities.org).