In the “New Topics or Questions from Readers” thread, Bill Keye posted a link to a New York Times op-ed, “Rethinking the Wild” — which might as well have been entitled “Rethinking the Wilderness Act.” The author, Christopher Solomon, suggests that we may need to manage wilderness areas to some degree, to mitigate the effects of climate change. For example:
“A great example is Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California, most of which lies within the 595,000-acre Joshua Tree Wilderness. Up to 90 percent of the park’s namesake trees could disappear by century’s end, according to models that factor in expected warming. Should we let that happen as nature’s atonement for our mistake? Or should park managers instead intervene in some way — relocating trees to higher elevations to promote their survival, for instance, or finding or creating a hybrid species that can withstand the hotter temperatures and combating exotic grasses that increase the threat of fires?”
Or cutting lodgepole to prevent their invasion of alpine meadows, or watering giant sequoia to help them survive a drier climate.
However, over in the “Bob Berwyn: Forest health crisis ends with a whimper” thread, Matthew K. posted a link to and an excerpt of an article in which USFS biologist Diana Six says, of cutting “survivor” trees during salvage logging:
“It’s natural selection. The bugs wiped out the trees that are not adapted to current conditions … Underlying genetics will determine future forests,” she said, challenging the conventional wisdom that logging is needed to restore forest health.
Many of alpine meadows previously were alpine lakes and wetlands. Over time, some have already filled in and now support trees rather than water plants and critters. How much of this process was the result of human activity, and how much was “natural”? The same goes for bark beetle infestations and fires that have affected wilderness. At what point, and under what circumstances, is active management of wilderness areas acceptable? Or is it, ever?