Right to Roam is the latest short film offering from Patagonia. It’s the exploration of Scotland by two snowboarders and explorers, Marie France-Roy and Alex Yoder.
Land usage rights are far different in Scotland, and across Europe, than they are in the United States. In Scotland, 90 percent of land is privately owned. That means most citizens do not have the chance to explore their country on publicly-held lands.
To combat the problem of quite literally being fenced in, Scotland enacted the “Right to Roam” land rights — basically, anyone has the right to roam, or explore, any land, regardless if it is private, as long as they do so responsibly, reasonably and respectfully.
Gates remain unlocked. The potential for adventure is unlimited, as long as you’re aware of your rights.
Although Scotland is not typically known for its snowboarding opportunities, because of its unique relationship with public and private land, Yoder and fellow Patagonia athlete Marie France-Roy decided to spend a few weeks there, seeing what potential the land held.
GrindTV talked to Yoder about his experience making the film.
What was the inspiration behind Right To Roam?
At the heart of it, the inspiration for the project came from a deep interest in culture, mainly mountain culture, that I share with Wade [Dunstan] and David [Cleeland] who are the wizards that make up WRKSHRT.
Scotland was a place we hadn’t been and knew was pretty far off the beaten path of ski/snowboard destinations, but we knew it had to have something interesting going on, something more foreign than the things we knew of like haggis, bagpipes and driving on the other side of the road.
What were the key takeaways from the project?
The “Right To Roam” law, which is part of the Scottish Outdoor Access Code and what that entails is certainly the focal point of this experience, but what’s more interesting to me is how this law came to be and how it seems to work without much discrepancy.
Simply put, a minuscule minority of the population owns almost all of the land in Scotland so they figured out a way to allow public access to all of the private land. This access is permitted on the grounds that those crossing into private property are reasonable, responsible and respectful.
I think for me that was the biggest takeaway, that this legal trespassing agreement is glued together by a personal accountability and self-policing model. Things operate much differently in the U.S, but I think that model is something we should consider integrating into our culture.
Scotland is not known for its snowboarding culture. What was it like filming what’s essentially a snowboarding film there?
It was hilarious. All of the locals we ran into laughed at us after they found out we came from Whistler and Jackson Hole to snowboard in Scotland.
Obviously it’s not a premier destination, but it is quite beautiful and the mountains are holding great terrain. I guess last year was a record low for snowfall, but we were still able to find good lines. You’re totally right though, they’re not known for their snowboard culture, but there is a lively, passionate and committed snowboard culture there that takes full advantage of their right to roam.
How did the differentiation between Scotland’s land usage laws and those of the U.S. affect how you personally view land usage?
The land use issue is something that is becoming more prevalent around the world as our population and industries continue to grow exponentially. Scotland just ran into the dreaded issue a lot earlier than us, so they’ve had to figure out how to mitigate the reality that almost the entire land mass is owned by a small fraction of its inhabitants.
In a way the experience has given me a more constructive and hopeful outlook on our situation in the USA. Obviously our trespassing laws are much more stringent, but to experience legal trespassing and how seemingly harmless it is gave me the feeling that it’s something we could strive for on some level.
Although it’s going to take a massive cultural shift for we the people to accept and enact anything like the “Right to Roam,” I think this is one of the most prevalent issues we’re dealing with at the moment and, along with climate change and basic human rights, how we deal with land use in the next few years is going to echo for centuries.
How does it affect your views of our public lands and the current administration’s attitude towards them?
The current administration is obviously enjoying their opportunity to get even more filthy rich off their positions in government. It’s a shame. Greed will ruin us if we don’t soon snap out of this illusion that wealth has a certain amount of zeros attached to it. Wealth comes in many forms and to me the true definition of wealth is to have your needs met enough that you can exist playfully — a step beyond survival.
Public land is ours to enjoy and access to this land should not only remain available to us, but those who we elect into positions of power should be making sure that our education system does their part to teach young generations to be stewards of this amazing gift we’ve been given.
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