The Real Price of Wilderness Designation

Posted on Freedom Advocates on October 13th 2004 

By [post_author] –

Designated Wilderness is land where no mechanized use is allowed. It is severely restrictive.

The 1964 Wilderness ACT defined Wilderness as:

(c) “Wilderness” defined…
A wilderness, in
contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the
landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its
community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a
visitor who does not remain. An area of wilderness is further defined
to mean in this chapter an area of underdeveloped Federal land
retaining its primeval character and influence, without permanent
improvements or human habitation, which is protected and managed so as
to preserve its natural conditions and which

  1. generally appears to have been affected primarily by the forces of
    nature, with the imprint of man’s work substantially unnoticeable;
  2. has outstanding opportunities for solitude or a primitive and unconfined type of recreation;
  3. has at least five thousand acres of land or is of sufficient size
    as to make practicable its preservation and use in an unimpaired
    condition; and
  4. may also contain ecological, geological, or other features of scientific, educational, scenic, or historical value.

Much of American lands have been reviewed to see if they meet these
criteria. Roughly 104 million acres have been designated Wilderness.
More is planned. In fact over 50% of the United States land mass has
been mapped for designation..

Many recreationalist citizens ‘feel’ we need more land designated
as Wilderness. These people proclaim to be virtuous by supporting
additional Wilderness designation. By doing so they sanction their own

Some ‘environmental’ recreationists will mountain bike in areas
that are not yet Wilderness (fewer and fewer); They will rock climb in
other areas that are not yet Wilderness (fewer and fewer); A few will
hike many hours where they used to drive to climbing areas or fishing
holes; Or they will hand drill instead of power drill, even though
drilling of any kind is illegal in Wilderness. But what is the real
price of Wilderness designation?

The fact is that the promised recreational use of Wilderness access is rapidly being eliminated and with it the ‘quality of life’ for people whose favorite climbing or biking or fishing or camping areas are closed by Wilderness.

What about those of us who live next to Wilderness and don’t have
the time or desire to drive long distances to the nearest non
Wilderness climbing or biking or fishing or camping spot?

What about the wasted fuel and pollution created by driving to these more distant non Wilderness areas?

What about the negative impact on wildlife and forest in those last
few non Wilderness places because of increased use and crowds?

What about not being able to mountain bike or walk my dog on a nearby trail because it has become Wilderness?

What about my daughter’s unborn children and all the things they
will not be able to experience because the land is CLOSED to ordinary
human beings?

What about the fact that designated Wilderness areas have often
become less healthy forests than neighboring non Wilderness forests?

What about the fact that wildlife biodiversity has often decreased in designated Wilderness areas?

So before certain individuals get self righteous about the things
that they are going to give up for the sake of “saving” the land by
designating it as Wilderness, I wish they would get the facts and then
consider the consequences of stripping Americans from the American
landscape. Most of us value living in the land of the free!

Since Wilderness advocates are willing to give up so much, I would
suggest that they choose their favorite local climbing spot, favorite
local mountain bike trail or favorite local fishing spot get a
Wilderness designation and see how their neighbors react. This is why
long term residents rarely work on designations that affect their local
community. After all most people do not want to be recognized as a
traitor or a thief to people in their own town.

Not designating Wilderness serves both the health of the forest and
provides for use and enjoyment by human beings. It is important for
mountain bikers, rock climbers, horseman, fisherman, campers and off
road vehicle users, to continue to enjoy the forests of America. It is
time to support ideas that preserve access and improve forest health.

Chris Horgan is the Executive Director of Stewards of the Sequoia, based in Lake Isabella, California.

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