Well, here we are again, the third time for the Wild Sky Wilderness. Multiple-use recreationists not only in Washington state but across the country are hopeful that the third time is not the charm.
Snowmobilers love being in the outdoors enjoying nature as much as any other outdoor enthusiast, and we are awed by the magnificent landscape it provides, but we believe land that does not legally qualify as wilderness cannot be included in new wilderness designations. This includes all of the 16,000 acres in the proposed Wild Sky Wilderness that does not legally qualify as wilderness and does nothing more than dilute and disparage the original intent of the Wilderness Act of 1964.
Has a need been identified for designating new wilderness areas in the western United States? Areas where you currently cannot camp in your recreational vehicle, ride a bicycle or even have a restroom structure with showers and toilets? Even the disabled are not able to enjoy most wilderness areas. Their wheelchairs are allowed, but in most cases the terrain prevents their use.
There are plenty of management classifications available to the forest service to protect our public land for the future without the need to take the extreme measure of a wilderness designation. Wilderness designation allows no forest management practices at all. Catastrophic forest fires are left to burn uncontrolled.
The original designation of wilderness area in 1964 totaled 9.1 million acres. Wilderness areas have now grown to include 677 areas totaling more than 106 million acres in 44 states. Enough is enough.
The U.S. Forest Service has already deemed many of these acres unsuitable for federal wilderness designation. Would Sen. Patty Murray have us believe that she is more informed than the professionals in the forest service in whom we entrust our tax dollars for management of our public lands? According to Gary Paull, wilderness and trails coordinator for the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, the more than 16,000 acres in question regarding Wild Sky contain roads, a cabin, a fire lookout, bridges and dams. Portions of this land have been previously harvested for timber. These features do not meet the legal definition of wilderness as established by the Wilderness Act of 1964.
As chairman of the Snowmobile Alliance of Western States, I would like to reiterate that we do support keeping our public land open for all people to enjoy. We do not support the Wild Sky Wilderness. Our members from across the western United States and beyond would encourage our elected officials to pass legislation that truly protects our resources for public recreation, and not for isolation from multiple-use.