Release Wilderness Study Areas

Let them be managed for public use based on their individual capacity to sustain a healthy ecosystem

By Chuck Jarecki

 Numerous letters and opinion pieces have been published by the media on Wilderness Study Areas (WSAs) and why they should be retained. Let me offer a different perspective.

Current WSAs offer a variety of management options based on their individual ecological characteristics. Why not release these WSAs and let them be managed for public use based on their individual capacity to sustain a healthy ecosystem, while still providing a variety of recreational activities as well as the potential for limited timber harvest? For instance, an area may not be suitable for summer motorized uses, but could easily sustain winter use by snowmobiles. WSAs should be subject to management by the agency administering the land, using decisions based on sound science and public input, instead of being locked up as de facto wilderness in perpetuity. Each WSA is unique in what uses it can support without degrading the area. Most federal land use plans already address how a WSA will be managed should it be released from wilderness consideration. Rather than the “no holds barred” development that many would have you believe will happen should an area be released, management prescriptions have been developed to protect the special values of these areas. Collaborative discussions involving all stakeholders could be held to refine these prescriptions, where necessary. No stakeholder should take the spoiled-child attitude that if they do not get their way, they would go to court. Let’s move on and begin sound management of our lands to meet a variety of uses and still protect the ecosystem. Our population is growing and the demand for quality recreation experiences will continue to expand.

Chuck Jarecki

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