From the Mouths of Wilderness Advocates

wildAn alert reader found this piece, which I thought was well worth a read. Here is the link and below is an excerpt.

Politicians, environmental groups and laws don’t protect wilderness, voters do.

* If the voters of the political entity with jurisdiction over the wilderness area are educated to personally understand the wilderness values involved, then and only then, will their representatives support Wilderness proposals.

* Neither Democrats nor Republicans are intrinsically pro–wilderness or anti–wilderness.

* The citizens and legislators who happen to live near a wilderness area should have no more say about it than the neighbors of the statue of liberty would have a special voice on what happens to it.

* Most legislators, public and civic officials and people near a wilderness tend to favor its commercialization, commodification and development.

* Once you identify the legislators to target, you know the voters you must educate: the voters who elect the politicians who sit on or chair the legislative committees with jurisdiction over your issue.

* Administrative agencies do what their political overseers tell them, so focus your lobbying on their political leaders.

* Campaigns for Wilderness in rural counties are won in urban areas. Most of the energy, concern and money in a campaign come from large cities. The focus of any campaign should be where the population of the controlling political entity is, not where the resource happens to be located.

It’s an interesting, and inaccurate, characterization of folks around wilderness areas in the New West who want all kinds of things, including wilderness. and I find the idea that federal property rights trump local needs as a bit.. well… colonialist. If it quacks like a duck… (eek.. I think I’m channeling Dave Skinner (!))

However, as a person who looked at endless tables of “things not allowed” in roadless compared to wilderness, I’ve gotta wonder whether “wilderness acres” is a target for someone or some organizations regardless of how much they’ve moved the needle from “very restrictive roadless land allocation” to “wilderness.” I think it would be helpful for everyone involved in the discussion to be reading off the same table of comparative restrictions. One of my wonky former coworkers, who is way more knowledgeable than I, pointed out that a specific part of the Colorado roadless regulation was more restrictive than wilderness. But how many people actually know what’s in and what’s out, comparatively? In my experience, very few.

And if it is all about Congress placing a stamp of approval on it, and wilderness being “more permanent”, then probably place-based bills for other things are the way to go, equally. IMHO. One more thing.. I am in no way dissing The Wilderness Society.. the people there I have worked with have been respectful and reasoned.

6 Comments

  1. Yes, it is weird that any roadless area might have more restrictions on uses than a designated “full” Wilderness area. But we all know that it only takes one election and one administration change to make these non-Wilderness acres open to any change the new boys(or girls) want to make.
    Wilderness as anointed by Congress and the President is protected from foolishness to a much higher level, even though some more recent Wilderness units have allowed some uses (grazing for example) that original Wilderness designations did not.
    So, no way are you going to convince me that a non-legislated roadless designation made at the forest level is adequate protection from political tampering.

  2. “It’s an interesting, and inaccurate, characterization of folks around wilderness areas in the New West who want all kinds of things, including wilderness. and I find the idea that federal property rights trump local needs as a bit.. well… colonialist.”

    I don’t know where New West is located, but this is not an inaccurate characterization of recent meetings held by the Forest Service in various towns in the southwest to get input on wilderness proposals for forest plans. The dominant local recommendation seemed to be “no wilderness.” (If anything, I think the author is off-base ignoring the fact that western rural voters have a form of minority rule through their disproportionate control of Congress – i.e. Montana has the same power in the Senate as New York).

    I don’t know what it means to be “colonialist,” and I don’t think “trump” was the concept being described. I do think there is a well-established relationship between state and federal authority. There will be a discussion of that question in relation to federal lands in October that may be viewed on-line: http://dughost.imodules.com/controls/email_marketing/admin/email_marketing_email_viewer.aspx?sid=1150&gid=1011&eiid=9369&seiid=5678&usearchive=1&puid=589fa58d-deeb-4f70-89f1-ffeb753af5b3

  3. Channel on, Sharon.
    This was the favorite:
    “* Campaigns for Wilderness in rural counties are won in urban areas. Most of the energy, concern and money in a campaign come from large cities. The focus of any campaign should be where the population of the controlling political entity is, not where the resource happens to be located.”
    Yep. Psychologically speaking, environmental “amenities” are wonderful in the abstract. Wolves. Nice, when they’re far away, only on a pretty picture. Wilderness — oh, my, just knowing it exists, oh my. Tell that to, say, Essex where the wilderness boundary is right next to the town and the wind is blowing right now. Funny how firsthand reality intrudes upon and influences attitudes, is it not?
    That this comes from Counterpunch (which I think is run from the Lost Coast) surprises me not in the least, and I love Jon wanting to flip the constitution so the urban majority can, yep, colonize the rural riffraff in yet another way.
    Thanks for posting this cutie, Sharon.

  4. Yes, I happen to be in Portland, Oregon last week and downtown, one of the outdoors stores had all these banners flying in the support of more national monuments. Maybe if I lived in Portland I would be all for it, since it really affects me in no way.
    But since I don’t and I get to see first hand all the waste and destruction of our human and national resources that our current forest and wilderness policies are creating I think differently. But what do I know, wanting to use something instead of waste it, I guess you call that “commodification”?

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