45 years ago during the 88th Congress the Wilderness Act of 1964 was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson. This act then became Public Law 88-577. On the date that PL 88-577 became law, September 3, 1964, a little more than 9 million acres were designated as wilderness, which were then added to the newly created National Wilderness Preservation System (NWPS).
Over the years since this act became law, the amount of public land that has been designated as wilderness and added to the NWPS has continued to increase at a staggering rate. In the last 25 years alone (1984 ÔÇô 2009), there has been an increase of approximately 20 million acres of wilderness. There is now a total of approximately 109.5 million acres designated as wilderness with no end in sight.
How many acres of public land should be set aside as wilderness?
If you listen to the extreme green crowd, we do not have nearly enough public land ÔÇ£designated as wilderness and protected for future generationsÔÇØ. Would doubling this amount to 219 million acres be enough for them? I rather doubt it.
On the other side of the wilderness argument there is the Snowmobile Alliance of Western States that believes we have set aside enough public land as wilderness and that the remaining public lands should be left open for multiple-use, making these public lands accessible to the majority of the public to enjoy for recreation. These non-wilderness designated lands would still be protected from development per existing land management regulations, but would also allow much needed forest management practices that are not allowed in designated wilderness areas.
If we take a look at the current wilderness bills that have been introduced and/or have already passed to date in the 111th Congress, there are valid reasons to be concerned. The Omnibus Public Lands Management Act to add 2.1 million acres to the NWPS was signed into law by President Barrack Obama on March 30, 2009.┬á Below is a list of the remaining wilderness bills in Congress that have been introduced as of today.
If Congress continues to pass legislation transferring ever increasing amounts of additional acres of public land into the NWPS, or the Forest Service keeps illegally closing Recommended Wilderness Areas from mechanized use, when will it finally get to the level that future generations (our children) will no longer have the same opportunity to enjoy our national forests by means of multiple forms of recreation as we have had the pleasure to enjoy in the past? That sad day seems to be coming sooner rather than later.
I strongly encourage you to contact your elected representatives in Congress and tell them that we have set aside enough public land as wilderness. Refer to some of the specific bills listed above with your concerns.
Lookup your U.S. House Representative
Chairman, Snowmobile Alliance of Western States
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