Monday, August 27, 2007


Wilderness — gain or loss?

Wilderness. The word conjures up images of solitude, mountains, lakes, rivers, streams and trees. The ideal of wilderness has a broad appeal. In almost every public discussion on wilderness, the idea of protecting land for our grandchildren is raised. This appeal tugs at our hearts and emotions, but it is irresponsible to make crucial decisions based solely on feelings. Wilderness designation and open space are not the same thing. Over 107 million acres have already been federally designated as wilderness. Legislated prohibitions in the Wilderness Act include "no use of motor vehicles, motorized equipment or motorboats, no landing of aircraft, no other forms of mechanical transport, and no structure or installation within any such area," among numerous other restrictions and limitations intended to protect the designated areas. Things as harmless as motorized wheelchairs and mountain bikes are excluded. The restrictions imposed by a wilderness designation are what give many groups and individuals great pause, as they try to understand the scope of implications and impacts. The ranching community does have an agenda. Every acre proposed for wilderness designation lies within an active working ranch, and they want to be able to continue ranching in the areas where they currently ranch. Ranchers fully support open space. They would be a bit foolish not to, because without open space, ranching cannot exist....

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