Area Designation: A Positive Alternative to Wilderness
This presentation from
The Wilderness Dilemma: Is There a Recreation Alternative?
W. Wood, Professor of Forest Wildlife Ecology, and Extension Trails
Specialist, Clemson University, Clemson, SC
Panelists: Clark Collins, Executive Director, BlueRibbon Coalition,
Pocatello, Idaho Jim Hasenauer, Board Member, International Mountain
Biking Association, Woodland Hills, California Rosalind McClellan, Director,
Rocky Mountain Recreation Initiative, Nederlands, Colorado
By Clark Collins
Many U.S. citizens do not trust the federal land managers to manage
our natural resources responsibly. Wilderness advocates have taken advantage
of this situation to promote Wilderness designation as a means to protect
these areas. Wilderness designation as originally conceived by the Wilderness
advocates involved in the passage of the 1964 Wilderness Act, as appropriate
for about ten million acres of administratively designated Wilderness
and Primitive Areas. Present day Wilderness advocates have since "corrupted"
the concept to a system of over one hundred million acres, and they
say we need much more.
An alternative land designation should be considered to help resolve
the Wilderness debate on our federal lands, which are located primarily
in the West and Alaska. Currently there is also an effort by Congress
and the Clinton Administration to purchase large green belts in the
Eastern United States where there is little federal land. Without an
alternative, these green belts will most likely be set aside for possible
WHO WOULD BE AFFECTED:
Off highway motorcycles, snowmobiles, 4X4s, mountain bikes, all
terrain vehicles (ATV), and motorized watercraft are not allowed in
designated Wilderness. Motorized uses that have been grandfathered into
some Wilderness areas, such as use of aircraft and powerboats, are subjected
to harassment. Horseback riders, hunters and other non-motorized recreationists
are also increasingly under attack from Wilderness purists who push
more restrictive regulations in existing Wilderness areas and those
areas proposed for that designation.
WHAT SHOULD BE DONE:
The U.S. Congress should consider legislation establishing a federal
designation that is less restrictive to recreational use than does the
Wilderness designation. We propose that it should be called "Back-Country
Recreation Area." This designation should be designed to protect, and
if possible enhance, the back-country recreation opportunities on these
lands while still allowing responsible utilization of these areas by
the natural resource industries.
This designation should be considered for those areas currently
identified by the federal land management agencies as "roadless" and
thus currently under consideration for Wilderness designation. Areas
considered may or may not be recommended for Wilderness designation
or classed as Wilderness Study Areas. Also, the Forest Service (FS)
and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) have administratively developed
non-Congressionally designated Wilderness-like reserves or buffer zones.
The Forest Service's buffers are called natural and near-natural areas.
The BLM's reserves are named primitive and semi-primitive. These non-Congressionally
approved land classifications could also be considered for Back-Country
Recreation Area (BCRA) designation.
All "roadless" federal lands, not currently designated as Wilderness,
should be reviewed for their importance to back-country recreationists
and considered for designation as BCRAs within 20 years of the passage
of this Act.
Many so-called "roadless" areas have been under consideration for
Wilderness designation for over 30 years. Much of the opposition to
Wilderness designation in many of these areas has been from recreationists
whose preferred form of recreation is not allowed in designated Wilderness.
Recreational resources need not be sacrificed for responsible resource
use. We need a designation that encourages cooperation between diverse
recreation interests, and between recreationists and the resource industries.
The BCRA can be that designation.
Resource industry activities had priority over protection of
Protection of areas "for" recreation and tourism is misused by
Wilderness advocates as a tool to stop resource-industry use.
Resource industry activities would be allowed, but recreation
resources would need to be protected in the process.
Recreational trails and access roads were often obliterated,
or made unavailable for recreation use, by resource industry activities.
"Loop" routes were sometimes interrupted making entire trails
systems unusable. Some recreationists have blamed the resource
industries for these disruptions.
Wilderness advocates have taken advantage of recreation disruptions
to justify their resource industry attacks as "in defense of recreation
and tourism." At the same time they oppose the construction of
new recreational trails or access roads, especially in areas they
want designated as Wilderness.
Recreational trails and access roads would be protected during,
restored after, or rerouted prior to, any resource industry activities.
Special attention would be paid to avoid disruption of "loop"
routes. BCRA designation would be considered, instead of Wilderness,
for important recreation areas.
Primitive roads, that are important to recreationists, were sometimes
closed and obliterated as mitigation for new road construction
or upgrading of existing routes to facilitate resource industry
use. Once again, some recreationists have blamed the resource
industries for these disruptions.
Wilderness advocates oppose the maintenance of and/or upgrading
of existing roads on our federal lands for any reason. This provides
for even currently "roaded" areas to someday be considered for
Wilderness. Wilderness is their ultimate goal, and how they keep
score of their successes.
Prior to being closed or obliterated for any reason, primitive
roads would be evaluated for their recreational importance. On
important recreation routes, re-routing or re-construction instead
of total closure would address environmental protection concerns.
Resource industry activities were generally not explained to
recreationists using nearby areas.
Wilderness advocates have used the recreation public's ignorance
of "where things come from" to demonize our resource industries.
Interpretive signing could be used to explain to recreationists
how our resources are being used wisely and for what.
USFS or BLM personnel planning resource industry activities gave
little to no consideration to impacts on recreation resources.
However, many recreationists blamed the resource industries, instead
of the agencies, for this problem.
Recreationists, who have blamed the resource industries for this
poor planning, are easy prey for Wilderness advocates who say
there is no room on our federal land for any resource industry
use. Wilderness advocates have just about "shut down" our public
Recreationists, resource industry representatives, and land managers
would work together to ensure minimum disruption of recreational
opportunities as a result of resource industry activities. We
would show the public that "multiple use" can work.
Transportation routes were evaluated primarily for their ability
to facilitate the movement of goods or people from point A to
Transportation routes are evaluated primarily for their potential
for environmental impact. They are considered an intrusion on
Transportation routes would be considered an important recreation
resource in their own right, and protected.
Access roads on USFS and BLM lands were paid for by the agencies
from receipts or royalties from resource industry activities.
Recreational users have essentially had a "free ride."
The USFS and BLM have caved in to pressure from the Wilderness
advocates to block resource industry use. Now they are struggling
with a lack of funding to maintain their transportation system.
Most new roads would be constructed by "timber" or other resource
industry dollars, as part of their contracts. Maintenance of general
access routes would be funded from "recreation" budgets and programs.
USFS and BLM recreation programs were largely funded through
agency receipts from resource industry use. Payments in Lieu of
Taxes (PILT) and 25% of revenue from resource utilization fees
and royalties were paid to local counties for education and transportation.
Federal agencies are struggling with recreation fee projects
that are opposed by Wilderness advocates who think "their" recreation
should be free. Wilderness advocates want the USFS and BLM funded
entirely from the general fund. County receipts from federal lands
have been drastically reduced.
The Recreational Trails Program (a federal trail-funding program)
and state recreation programs could continue to be used to supplement
USFS and BLM recreation funding. Receipts from resource industry
activities would continue to be used for PILT and 25% payments
OHV recreation groups support state registration and fuel tax-supported
trail funding programs. "Some" recreationists work for passage
of a federal fuel tax funded trails program called the Recreational
Trails Program (RTP). Wilderness advocates unsuccessfully oppose
these legislative initiatives, causing some legislators and recreation
managers to question their motives.
Wilderness advocates continue to oppose these "user pay-user
benefit" programs because they may make areas ineligible for future
Wilderness designation. More federal and state recreation managers,
who would normally support Wilderness, now realize the Wilderness
purists are actually opposed to recreation. A broad array of recreationists
realizes that Wilderness is not good for recreation, especially
mountain bikers who are not allowed in Wilderness.
Wilderness advocates continue to oppose any designation short
of Wilderness. This will further erode their legitimacy as recreation
representatives. Even eastern urban bicycle commuters will identify
with their mountain biker friends, and may oppose Wilderness designations.
The Wilderness designation movement will lose much of its "recreation"
interest support. BCRA designation will show that recreation and
resource industries can co-exist.