How much more federally owned real estate do we really need locked up and closed ÔÇ£for future generationsÔÇØ, as designated wilderness, as the preservationists so often like to preach? These lands will most likely never be enjoyed by 95% of the American public unless they view them on their big screen TVÔÇÖs in the urban city where they live, or if they fly over them in an airplane.
I do agree that some pristine areas should be set aside as wilderness. These are wonderful places that some of us can enjoy when we have the time and energy to get to them. I can live with the fact that we already have nearly 106 million acres (1) of┬á designated wilderness in the United States, but how much more do we need? Our preservationist friends would like to see no less than 100% of our national forests designated as wilderness and closed to the majority of forest visitors.
According to the Forest Service National Visitor Use Monitoring studies, only 5% of the people that visit our national forests bother to take the extra time and effort to recreate in our current wilderness areas.(2) If so few people use our current wilderness areas, why should we add a large┬ápercentage of more wilderness designated acres? Oh, I forgot, we need to protect it for ÔÇ£future generationsÔÇØ that will most likely never use it.
Our elected officials in Washington D.C. are seriously violating the law of the Wilderness Act of 1964. It states ÔÇ£A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remainÔÇØ.(3) Are these requirements currently being upheld? Not even close.
Our Congress is currently, and in the recent past, designating lands with roads, timber harvested areas, cabins, mining operations, communication towers, etc. as wilderness areas. Do you think this canÔÇÖt happen to the area you like to snowmobile in because the Wilderness Act of 1964 states that wilderness areas must be ÔÇ£untrammeled by manÔÇØ?┬áYou better think again.
For example, the Wild Sky Wilderness proposal (HR822) includes more than 16,000 acres of Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest land that does not meet the Wilderness Act requirements. That sure doesnÔÇÖt bother most of our Washington State elected officials that support this proposal. MBSNF is already 42% designated wilderness. So far, the only person that is willing to follow the law of the Wilderness Act and prevent this proposal from becoming reality is Representative Richard Pombo (R-11, Ca.), House Resource Committee Chair, a true friend of people that support multiple-use of our national forests. Too bad us folks here in Washington State have to rely on a man from California to uphold the law that will affect our stateÔÇÖs use of public lands, but we thank Mr. Pombo for his courage and unwavering dedication to what is right and lawful.
During the recent House Resource Committee hearing on the Wild Sky Wilderness proposal in Washington State that occurred July 22nd, 2004, Representative Jay Inslee (D-1, Wa.), asked Mark Rey, Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment, Department of Agriculture (which the forest service is governed by), ÔÇ£is there any reason that we can not designate the 16,000 acres of the 106,000 acre proposal [that contains roads, bridges, dams, logged areas and private mining operations] as wilderness?ÔÇØ Mark Rey pretty much stated that ÔÇ£Congress has in the past, and can in the future, designate whatever land they wish as wildernessÔÇØ, even if it does not follow the true intent of the language of the Wilderness Act.
The Wilderness Act also states ÔÇ£there shall be no temporary road, no use of motor vehicles, motorized equipment or motorboats, no landing of aircraft, no other form of mechanical transport, and no structure or installation within any such area.ÔÇØ(3) Apparently this line can be stretched for any new proposed wilderness area.
I recently spoke with a 5th grade teacher from Chicago. I asked her what her opinion of wilderness was. She said ÔÇ£it is a place for wildlife where people arenÔÇÖt allowedÔÇØ. I said people are allowed in wilderness areas, they just canÔÇÖt use mechanical forms of transportation. That was fine with her, because she said she had heard that ÔÇ£snowmobiles scare wildlife and therefore it is a good thing that they werenÔÇÖt allowed in some placesÔÇØ. I pointed out that studies have proven that wildlife is more startled by humans on foot, than by humans on motorized vehicles. She then stated ÔÇ£people on foot should not be allowed in wilderness areas, because everywhere people go they leave garbage, so we need to protect these areas from peopleÔÇØ. I am glad I donÔÇÖt have kids in her 5th grade class with opinions like this.
I suggest that if our elected officials can overlook the sentence in the Wilderness Act stating that a wilderness must be ÔÇ£untrammeled by manÔÇØ, then maybe they should also overlook the sentence in this act that states ÔÇ£no use of motor vehiclesÔÇØ. After all, a law is only what we decide is currently relevant to enforce, and apparently our elected officials have already determined that enforcing all of the language of the Wilderness Act of 1964 is not worthy of enforcing.
Do we really need millions of more acres designated as wilderness?┬á
1 – http://www.wilderness.net/index.cfm?fuse=NWPS&sec=chartResults&charttype=acreagebyagency
2 – http://www.fs.fed.us/recreation/programs/nvum/reports/year2/2002_national_report_final.htm