Roadless Areas Good for Wilderness

By Beacon Staff

I read with interest Tom Crimmins’ guest column (Nov. 16 Beacon: “Release Inventoried Roadless Lands”) and would like to commend him for 32 years of service with the U.S. government (Forest Service). But he has several opinions that are unsettling to me.

The Roadless Area Review and Evaluation (RARE) and RARE II were good for the wilderness areas of our country. But the Roadless Area Conservation Rule of 2001 was by far the most beneficial for protecting wildlife and their habitat. H.R. 1581 seeks to release these areas back into multiple use status and upon close inspection, the last four words of this bill, “and for other purposes,” are disturbing and should be very alarming to anyone who cares about protecting the wild.

The statements Mr. Crimmins put forth about “identifying any and all areas that could potentially be considered for wilderness designation and then, once and for all, make recommendations for areas that should be considered for wilderness designation” are very broad and bold statements to make. Any and all? Once and for all? According to whom? Mr. Crimmins’ opening statement says “I was there.” But, I wonder, where were you, Mr. Crimmins? Were you in the mountains and the forests of the areas you were studying? Were you there with the wildness of the place? Or were you in a comfortable office building sitting at a desk with a cup of coffee, coming in at 8 a.m. and leaving at 5 p.m. You never really tell us where you were and “I was there” does not really carry a lot of weight if your perception and ideas are wrong to begin with, regardless of where you are.

The main goal of the U.S. Forest Service is not to protect land but to protect land in the interest of business. Business and profits, that’s what the management of resources is about. And what is “management” of resources? How did the wilderness manage itself for millions of years of evolution before the influence of industrialized man and his “management techniques” came into the picture? Mr. Crimmins and his colleagues made determinations on which areas of land should be considered full-fledged wilderness areas and which areas were “unsuitable for wilderness designation”. How can any land be unsuitable for wilderness designation? It was all wilderness at one time. And who or what defines wilderness?

Any area protected from the assaults of man and his machinery is great, any area set aside for wilderness or even the possibility of wilderness is great. Any area that is roadless needs to remain that way; man does not need more roads, wildlife does not need more roads. There are enough roads already, millions of miles of them criss-crossing this country for more and more cars and trucks and SUVs and ORVs. When is enough, enough?

Two phrases in The Wilderness Act of 1964 state “…the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain,” and “…with the impact of man’s work substantially unnoticeable.” If wilderness is the most restrictive land management tool available there is something wrong when Congress has to restrict uses to keep man from vandalizing an area. Man should view himself as a visitor to these areas and not a supreme being. They are here for their own reasons and purposes, not just to serve man. Humans are the biggest threat to wild areas and these areas should not be viewed only for their resources nor are they there for our amusement. They are about habitat and biodiversity; they are about the power of presence.

“… And for other purposes.” Purposes for what: more road building, mining, logging, drilling, development and resorts? Mr. Crimmins states: “We can do better,” in referring to these areas that are “managed to protect their wilderness characteristics.” What could be better than leaving this land unspoiled, untrammeled, roadless, a haven for wildlife when those areas are becoming harder and harder to come by? What could be better? Nothing, unless what you have in mind is more and more progress.

Keith Kratzer lives in Columbia Falls.