Sunday, September 14, 2014

50 Years of Wilderness

"If future generations are to remember us with gratitude rather than contempt, we must leave them a glimpse of the world as it was in the beginning, not just after we got through with it."
                   — President Lyndon Baines Johnson, signing the Wilderness Act of 1964 into law.

Elizabeth Kolbert, an environmental writer, says in the current National Geographic magazine: "Some 30 proposed wilderness areas now await approval from a gridlocked Congress. None of the proposals would have made it even that far without broad local support. There would be no better way to celebrate the Wilderness Act's golden anniversary than for Washington to approve them."

Read her article 50 Years of Wilderness here.

Please take the time to write your Congressional members and ask them for protection now before they are degraded by competing uses.

Let us hear from you -- what does Wilderness mean to you?

National Wilderness Month

President Obama has declared September National Wilderness Month, and in 2014, we also celebrate the 50th anniversary of the signing of The Wilderness Act. In his proclamation
President Obama called on Americans to “reflect on our rich tradition of stewardship, which has preserved the wild and scenic places we enjoy today, and renew our commitment to advancing our country’s legacy of conservation in our own time.”

Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, MN
Read the proclamation here.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Rethinking the Wild

In a recent NYTimes editorial, Christopher Solomon states that the Wilderness Act, at 50 years, is facing a midlife crisis. Solomon cites some environmentalists that believe human intervention may be required in order to save or restore the original wilderness qualities in many of our wilderness areas.
Maroon Bells Snowmass Wilderness

Due to climate change, areas like Yosemite's Tuolumne Meadows is drying out and being replaced by lodgepole pine forest. Should the Park Service keep the meadow intact by cutting these trees and irrigating the meadow? Sequoia and Joshua Tree national parks are considering interventions to help these titular species survive rising temperatures and drought, either relocating trees or irrigating groves. In Bandelier National Monument, the Park Service has already stepped in to remove the increasing pinon-juniper forest to stave off erosion of thousands of archaeological sites and restore the grassland character of the area.

It's an interesting question -- is Wilderness truly wild? Is any place on the planet not shaped by human impact? Can we really experience land "untrammeled by man?" Grazing is still an allowed use of Wilderness, and the impacts of over-grazing are evident everywhere in the American west (compacted soils, cutbanks, disappearance of native grasses and other species, and the invasion of nonnatives). Popular areas are overrun by recreationalists, like the Maroon Bells Snowmass Wilderness where hundreds of people and their dogs pound the trails everyday.

What do you think? Is Wilderness worth keeping? Do we relax the rules to allow more intervention by land agencies or contracted concessions? Is it time to rewrite the Wilderness Act?