Montana n: A state of the northwest United States bordering on Canada. Admitted as the 41st state in 1889. The fourth largest state in the union, it includes vast prairies and numerous majestic mountain ranges.
Syn: Treasure State, Big Sky Country, Last Best Place.
Jones n: slang. An addiction or very deep craving.
Monday, April 27, 2009
What is up with the call for wilderness these days?
I am having a lot of trouble with what Wilderness entails. I understand that a wilderness designation places special rules on what can and can't be done in a piece of land. But what exactly? And I am at least a little suspicious of the business people in the above article. Could they really be trying to preserve their McMansions by having the government lock down "their backyard"?
I have read the wilderness act itself, and find little guidance there about how wilderness has been practically managed. Here is my summary of the restrictions listed therein.
Except for measures necessary to meet minimum requirements for administration of the area, including emergencies, health and safety.
- No commercial enterprise
- No permanent road
- No temporary road
- No motor vehicles
- No motorized equipment
- No motorboats
- No landing of aircraft
- No mechanical transport
- No structure or installation
There are some exceptions listed in the act pertaining to aircraft and motorboat use established prior to 1964. There is also a big section pertaining to mining and mineral rights in effect up through 1983.
Don't get me wrong. I am a big fan of the wild outdoors. I know that places like the Bob Marshal Wilderness have benefited from the wilderness designation. I know that our state has benefited from the wilderness areas we enjoy. But as a visitor to wild areas I also know a little human intervention solves problems.
- Establishing campsites and trails outside of wildlife migration routes reduces human/animal conflict.
- Maintaining trails with modern chainsaws and equipment is less expensive and results in better-maintained and safer trails.
- Shelter cabins can save lives.
- Signs, trail markers and cairns aid in navigation and help localize and reduce human impact.
In other words, Wilderness areas and wilderness recreation do not mix very well. Perhaps they were not meant to. I think it is important that tracts of land are preserved from recreational interests as well as from commercial interests; a wilderness designation does that. But we should be careful about which pieces of land get padlocked up from all human interactions. Preserving wild lands for recreation and human use is also important. I think case by case evaluations would be a better choice than a blanket "Wilderness Good" proclamation.
The park Superintendent wants Glacier to be a wilderness area. I am suspicious of this too. Park management is already required to manage areas eligible for wilderness status as though it is wilderness. The superintendent says that the wilderness designation will just make these management policies permanent.
But casting wilderness into law will also overlay another set of potentially conflicting laws and rules on the existing management. What happens when the Park Service Organic Act conflicts with the requirements of a wilderness area? What happens when the rules for preserving historic structures conflict with the rules for managing wilderness areas?
The Wilderness Act is also hostile to wilderness recreation, as we have seen above. The National Park Service mission includes both preservation and providing for enjoyment. Making a National Park a wilderness does a service to one part of that mission, but a disservice to the other.
The National Park Service Wilderness Management Policies do call for assessments and studies before the change can be made. Unfortunately, the same policies make no mention of public comment or input.
The policies also call for public education programs and states:
Education is among the most effective tools for dealing with wilderness use and management problems and should generally be applied before more restrictive management tools.
I think the best thing that can happen right now is education, debate and discussion. There are far too many questions unanswered at this time for me to think that slapping "wilderness" all over the map is a good idea. So for any of you congress people or lawmakers out there, please keep right on doing what you have been doing. Nothing! Make no votes for new wilderness until the debate has reached the public and we better understand what we are doing to the future of our lands.
There is more Jones in the archives: February 2005 March 2005 April 2005 May 2005 June 2005 July 2005 August 2005 September 2005 October 2005 November 2005 December 2005 January 2006 February 2006 March 2006 April 2006 May 2006 June 2006 July 2006 August 2006 September 2006 October 2006 November 2006 December 2006 January 2007 February 2007 March 2007 April 2007 May 2007 June 2007 July 2007 August 2007 September 2007 October 2007 November 2007 December 2007 January 2008 February 2008 March 2008 April 2008 May 2008 June 2008 July 2008 August 2008 September 2008 October 2008 November 2008 December 2008 January 2009 February 2009 March 2009 April 2009 May 2009 June 2009 December 2009 January 2010 May 2014