Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Further thoughts on the 
idea of wilderness

The National Wilderness Preservation System comprises 765 designated areas under the administration of the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. I am grateful that the system exists, and grateful that biologically and geologically significant natural landscapes have been set aside as havens from resource extraction, road building, and motorized vehicles.

But the Wilderness Preservation System is fragmented. Many units are small. They are affected by the activities that take place in the landscapes that surround them. They are not truly wild places. Human activity seeps into them and has done so for a very long time.

My favorite one, the Sierra Ancha Wilderness of central Arizona, is a gem, although a small one of just 20,850 acres. That may sound like a lot, but this unit is only about six by eleven miles in extent and irregularly shaped, with one spot pinching down to less than a mile in width. Around it are roads, ranches, summer home developments, telecommunication facilities, and uranium prospects. I have easily walked right across the Sierra Ancha Wilderness in the course of a day hike. You can make cell phone calls from the middle of it.

To my way of thinking, a so-called wilderness can't really be wilderness unless it is something like the size of Connecticut -- 5000 square miles, say. Alaska can have wildernesses; the other states, not so easily.

To those contemplating use of our federally protected wilderness areas, I would say that generally they are a lot smaller than you think they are and that your impacts will be a lot bigger than you think they will be.

You should consider this and act accordingly.

No comments:

Post a Comment