Ted Stroll stated that outdoor enthusiasts should be “the natural constituents of a wilderness protection program.” As I pack my bags for a raft trip through the Idaho wilderness, I wholeheartedly agree.
True escape from city life doesn't have to mean a trip outside the U.S. Inside America's borders are some of the most remote, pristine spots on the planet.
The U.S. has more than 100 million acres of the National Wilderness Preservation System (NWPS), public lands that--since the 1964 passage of the Wilderness Act--are protected from human influence and disruption. For the outdoorsy traveler looking for remoteness, solitude and a sense of nature, Wilderness areas offer all these things in abundance.
We were shocked recently to find out that Texas' best-loved wild place, Big Bend National Park, isn't in the top tier of the nation's best-protected public land. Big Bend hasn't been designated a wilderness, so it doesn't fall under the National Wilderness Protection System. That needs to change.
… These days, of course, there aren't many wild places left, and the ones that remain have to be protected. Much of Big Bend, thankfully, is already managed as if it were an official federal wilderness.
A new survey by a Colorado-based pollster, commissioned by the Wilderness Society, found that Montanans favor, by a 3 to 1 margin, a Rocky Mountain Front conservation plan that includes more wilderness.
The Rocky Mountain Heritage Act, unveiled in September by the Coalition to Protect the Rocky Mountain Front, proposes to add protection to 393,000 acres.
In 2003, Gale Norton, then the secretary of the interior, and Michael Leavitt, then the governor of Utah, struck a deal that removed federal protections from about 2.6 million acres of public land in Utah that the Clinton administration had designated as potential wilderness. At the same time, Ms. Norton disavowed her department’s longstanding authority to identify, study and recommend new areas for wilderness protection.
In simple terms, that means no logging or non-human-powered recreation. But wilderness amounts to more than a list of don'ts, and visiting just one corner of the state's 200,000 acres of freshly minted wilderness can explain why.
… Fernandez likes to say that you can still go hunting, hiking, fishing and camping there, but "you just have to leave your chain saw and bulldozer at home."
Well, that’s exactly what’s been happening in recent years in Montana. Wilderness backers, mill managers and other resource development advocates have been sitting down to address the future of public lands. And they are coming up with workable, innovative solutions.
…There will never be complete agreement in the wilderness debate. But Montana residents are demonstrating a strong willingness to work together to end a quarter-century-old stalemate over the future of large swaths of public land.