Wilderness and access to public lands are very controversial today. The two terms, Wilderness and access, have become nearly mutually exclusive. Wilderness is designated by Congress. Access to Wilderness is by muscle power (no motorized or mechanized access -- no mountain bikes). Wilderness Study Areas are a stepping stone interim mearsure, for the most part, and eventually lead to more Wilderness.
Wilderness areas that we consider legitimate, should be based on the 1964 Wilderness Act (original legislation) and NOT the current radical dreams of some anti-access groups who think land use means no use. The original Act was not that bad and is supported by many OHV and recreation groups.
In May 2002, there was a huge push by the anti-access folks for more Wilderness. More of these "pushes" happen every year. Oregon's "Wild Wilderness" was pushing for 4.8 million acres. The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) is always after more of Utah to lock up! It seems like they always have 8 or 9 million more acres they want of Utah in Wilderness.
The perennial Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act (HR 488) involves around 26 million acres of the Rockies. And in California, Senator Barbara Boxer or Feinstein are always after somewhere between 2.5 and 7 million more acres of Wilderness in California.
There's even an American Wilderness Coalition that has already started coordinating this land grab. Add to that the highly orchestrated Wildlands Project, and you will see that our country is in great pressure of being a hiking only nation of wild places.
In California, we had a protest and rally against Boxer's bill in 2002.
My friend, Jon Crowley at Crowley Off-Road did a tremendous job putting together (the first, I mind you) fully detailed map of where the new Wilderness areas will be if Senator Boxer gets her well-intended, but misguided way. He also served as our lead hook for the protest. It was awesome.
See this web site for more
On the other hand, Congressman John T. Doolittle has released a new bill to Release Wilderness Study Areas. This is wonderful news and fits right in with our efforts to keep public lands FOR the public, instead of FROM the public.
Senator Boxer's bill follows the path of other, long-standing anti-access agendas, such as The Wildlands Project. If you need more on their overall agenda, check out my article on The Vicious Green Circle.
It's important to understand the connection between efforts like The Wildlands Project (TWP) and Wilderness. TWP seeks to establish millions of acres of new Wilderness under the guise of habitat connectivity -- corridors of undisturbed habitat connecting each other. These new Wilderness areas would expand all the way down to the lowlands (grass country) of many states, especially in California. The truth is, in my opinion, that it is just not practical, nor is it necessary.
Habitat connectivity in developed States is a thing of the past. Human expansion and development have changed nature too much. People are not going to stand for being thrown off their property so some critter can make it from the grass country to the high mountains without seeing a car.
The solution is NOT more Wilderness. The solution is better management of our current Wilderness areas and wildlands in general. The BlueRibbon Coalition has another solution (keep reading).
It gets even more complicated to understand, when you read about anti-access folks advocating getting rid of watercraft on our lakes. Then add to the mix the anti-access campaign to rid our country of cattle grazing and timber harvesting. Now you have a picture that hopefully will spur you to continue to do your part to stop these outrageous takings of our freedom.
It's a vicious green circle that keeps coming back on itself. The anti-access folks have one agenda and they've all pulled together to achieve the same thing -- LESS ACCESS FOR US. We must fight them. We must fight for our freedoms and access to public lands for responsible multiple use.
There is a better alternative to Wilderness. It's called the Back Country concept as put forth by the BlueRibbon Coalition. Go check it out. I am supporting this effort with everything I've got!
For more from Del Albright on wilderness, land use, access and getting involved in preserving public lands FOR the people instead of FROM the people, click here.