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Re: Wilderness Designations
connie B Berto wrote:
> Right, Steven, we all can agree that land must be preserved if it is to
> be there for us to use in the future. To repeat what I said, there are
> other more user-friendly designations for public land that will also
> preserve the resource, than creating wilderness areas with our tax
> dollars and then locking us out. Connie B.
Connie, could you list what these other designations are?
This may be obvious to everybody, but it was something that took some
doing before it finally sank into my head. At the Clemson conference,
one of the points really emphasized in the keynote address was that the
governmental organizations that oversee "public land" are created
by a *law*. This law gives the governmental organization a prioritized
list of reasons for its existance. The governmental organization has
*NO CHOICE* but to follow this prioritized list--which it must uphold,
by law--when it is making decisions on land use.
For example, this is a key difference between the National Park Service
and the National Forest Service. The National Park Service, BY LAW, *must*
put "preserving the environment" first in its considerations for land
use. The recreational use we tend to view as a "right" is actually way
down in the list of priorities in the law that created the National Park
Service. This is why, whenever anybody wants to get any particular
interest group banned in a National Park, they always wave "environment"
as the reason.
The National Forest Service's first priority--BY LAW--is management of
land for sustainable economic exploitation! Yet again, the interest
that we have, recreation, is not foremost on their legally-mandated
list of priorities. Indeed, the former director of the National Forest
Service, one Jack Ward Thomas, was a keynote speaker at Clemson. He
made the point that currently in Congress, the various committees that
oversee land use are primarily under the control of Western Republicans
that are beholden to economic interests such as mining and logging,
and who view "recreational activities" as a rival, a *threat*, and an
economic minus to their use of land. (The situation with the spotted owl
causing a ban on logging in parts of the Pacific Northwest is an interesting
case of the mandate of one law, the Endangered Species Act, colliding
with the mandate of another law, the law that created the National Forest
In the light of all this new understanding, I was amused when I discovered
that one of the newest large parks administered by the National Park Service,
Big South Fork in north-central Tennessee (created in the mid-1980's)--so
splendid for equestrian activities--is actually NOT a national park!
The law that defines a "national park" was deemed too restrictive for
the kinds of activities that people wanted to have at Big South Fork.
Local Tennessee homeboy Senator Howard Baker therefore drafted a special law
creating Big South Fork as a "National Recreational and River Area" with
provisions that explicitly allowed hunting (forbidden in National Parks) and
extensive white water rafting. The National Park Service runs Big South
Fork, but its charter mandates recreation as its highest priority, not
the traditional environmental protection. Oh, "environmental protection"
is there, but it is not the legal first priority.
"Wilderness with a capital W" is a specific legal designation. It means
essentially, "back to nature without any interference from man." That has
been interpreted to mean "no strip mining" but has also been interpreted
to mean "you can't chainsaw that tree that just fell across this road"
because, in the spirit of the law, the road itself should probably be
allowed to erode back into nonexistance.
People don't understand these legal distinctions. In their minds, everything
kind of gets lumped into either "developed, with hotels and subdivisions and
MacDonalds" vs "left open." That there are many legally-enforceable shades
of "left open" is completely lost in the noise.
So, I would like to see a list of which legal shadings of "left open" are
currently defined and in common use, to try to see which best serves the
environment while still allowing us our rides.
Linda B. Merims
that log t
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