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Wilderness Designation

Posted Saturday, January 12, 2008, at 9:43 AM

Along with our motorized recreation (Jeepin') over the years, we've spent a considerable amount of time working with the US Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management. From motorized route planning and use, to public lands clean-up, trail maintenance, and education, Margie and I have been involved with educating off road enthusiasts about sustainable land use, as well as opposing route closures and adding wilderness designation to more public lands.

Wilderness is a big issue to us. Throughout the west, US and state governments hold vast areas of land, and much is suitable for motorized recreation. Take Nevada for example, over 90% of the state is public land. There are wilderness areas scattered all over Nevada. California has thousands of acres of public land too. Margie and I spent 3 months just driving around 18 wilderness areas withing 100 miles of Needles California checking to make sure that "No Vehicle" signs were in place to help wilderness areas stay that way. I hope someday someone will be able to explain to me how the term "untrammeled by man" includes roads and buildings because our "wilderness areas" almost all have been trammeled by man. Some of these areas are so vast and remote that without motorized vehicles, areas are effectively closed to human use.

The US Forests Service signs say "Land Of Many Uses", but wilderness changes all that! Wilderness to me really means land of no uses...unless you have a horse or walk. No bicycles, wheelchairs, or any other mechanized conveyance is allowed, unless of course it's not convenient for the land managers, and they get to drive in if necessary for "administrative purposes". People with mobility issues are excluded from wilderness areas unless they find a way to walk or have a horse carry them in.

You may wonder why we wouldn't want more wilderness designated and the reason is simple. The US Congress has gone through this exercise before with the original Wilderness Act that designated millions of acres of land wilderness. Now, environmental interests want more areas with "wilderness characteristics" designated wilderness. As far as I can tell, local public comment on these publicly proposed wilderness areas is of little value. If it is cost effective for the government to close an area to motorized recreation, it happens. This will close thousands of miles of motorized recreation areas, and force more people into smaller areas, causing more impact, causing land managers to shut down more areas in a vicious cycle of use and lose land management practices.

Other than the fact that our farm is privately owned, it might be worth being designated a wilderness area. It certainly has wilderness characteristics as defined by environmental groups. There are roads on the farm, but they get almost no use. There are weeds 10 maybe 12 foot tall all over the property. Though it is obvious that man has indeed been here because there are roads and buildings, scattered about, that doesn't matter because the property has wilderness "characteristics". So unless I hurry and get the weeds knocked down, some environmentalist may show up at our door with a wilderness study sign claiming eminent domain and make us move.



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