THE REWILDING OF AMERICA
By Del Albright
Yes, it's a real term: "rewilding." And yes, for sure you need to know about it. This past winter I learned about it first hand.
I was snowmobiling in a great area of the western Sierra Nevada range of California. The snow was perfect, especially for an old four-wheeler, snowmobile beginner like me on a big machine. We were scooting along a groomed trail when the trail leader jumped ship and headed out across a beautiful meadow that was heretofore unmarked by the familiar tracks of a sled. It was ours and we were having a ball. We slipped around a few trees and made our way over a snow-filled creek to find some truly bitchen, untrodden snow. As a four-wheeler, I've experienced this fun on rubber tires as well, but this was new to me.
After a few turns (and a few spills by me), the boss hauled us up for lunch. We circled the sleds and began what I consider the best part of the day (food!). Now the bad news. He told us that the area in which we were having some serious fun was soon to be closed to sleds (and all over-the-snow adventures) because of some critters. It turns out that this area is targeted for potential reintroduction of fur-bearing critters like weasels, martens and fishers. "What?" was all I could say? Reintroduction??? Bringing back critters that haven't been around for over 100 years? Sup with that?
Naturally, not EVER having seen one of these dudes in the winter (or even in this area), I asked: "why?" Well, the explanation came in the form of "rewilding" of America. Federal agencies, driven by Sierra Club and other extremists protectionists, are exploring options for the reintroduction of a variety of species throughout federal lands. The catchy part, and you'll like this, is that these critters have not been in this particular area since 1850. Yes, over 150 years ago they were thought to be here. So now in order to rewild this area, and get these little guys back in this particular habitat, the biologists are saying they shouldn't be disturbed. And yes, that means snowmobiles. Fur bearers need stands of timber and corridors connecting the stands (travel routes).
Well, you guessed it. That also means we certainly can't go running our motorized vehicles through the area if we expect these critters to come back after 150 years of absence.
OK, so I'm being a bit sarcastic. And yes it bothers me that this kind of science is out there. But it is; and it threatens the common sense of America.
In fact, this particular area for rewilding is only "under consideration" at this time. But we know what that usually leads to. Whether or not sleds bother fur bearers is a hairy question at best as far as I can see. But more importantly, maybe it's time to look at the reality of recreational use vs. the needs of critters that left the area a LONG time ago. I suppose four wheel drives will bother them in the summer too. And what about mating season?
Anyway, you see what's happening. Add this rewilding concept to the Near Natural Areas, Areas of Critical Environmental Concern, Wilderness and Wilderness Study Areas, and etc. etc. etc., and what you've got left are paved roads! This scares me. I am not an alarmist; but I do believe the management of public lands (including the possible reintroduction of species long since migrated) should first consider the needs of humans.
Wildlife management has become a political science. Politicians (driven by vocal interest groups) tell fish and game and public land managers how to manage wildlife. Hard science (real science) for the most part is back burner stuff. It's politics that rule.
Public involvement in public lands is the answer. This is not the only answer though. Our battlefronts are not necessarily the federal land management agencies. In fact, I submit to you that our battles need to be fought in the cities; in the cities where the radical, protectionists, green advocacy groups (GAGS), live and work. They have money. They give money to the elected officials that reshape the management of public lands through their policies and civil service appointments. They are shaping the use (or non-use) of your public lands and exerting their will on us, the recreational user.
We have a right to recreate and enjoy our public lands. Yes, we care about not doing unnecessary damage. And yes, I will avoid bothering critters whenever I can. But to continue to find ways to lock me out of my public lands really gets my dander up. It's not right. We HAVE to be involved. We MUST write our elected officials (right down to the local folks), and tell them how we feel and what we believe and want.