Wilderness and Roadless, the King’s Forests

Editor’s note:  Submitted for publication today by NWAF! Coalition member Robin Stanley. Comments welcome, as always.

New Forest old map.jpg

William the Conquer kicked the peasants off his land so he could have a private hunting reserve for himself and his guests.  Unlike William the Conquer, our government has only kicked the handicapped, the poor, the children and the elderly off of the government land and instead has reserved it for the wealthy and the healthy.

I liken those responsible for establishing wilderness and roadless areas to the king’s men who banned the peasants from the king’s private hunting reserve. In this case, however, the peasants are those who are not healthy enough or wealthy enough to access the wilderness or the roadless areas. Instead these areas are reserved for those strong enough to carry their supplies on their back or those affluent enough to own or rent horses or livestock to carry them into the wilderness or roadless areas.  Furthermore you need to be able to take enough time off to walk, hike, or ride into the motorless or roadless areas. How many people have been able to spend the night in a wilderness or roadless area?  The number is very few. That is not to say there should not be any wilderness or roadless areas. What I am saying is that our society should be careful in how much of our national forests should access be denied to a large portion of our society consisting of the less fortunate, the handicapped and aged population.

Some of our nation’s most prized positions are our national parks.  Imagine what Yosemite, or Glacier, or Yellowstone parks would be like without roads.  How many Americans would ever have been able to witness Old Faithful, or the Going to the Sun Highway if the roadless mentality were applied a hundred years ago to preserve our national park system.  But because most Americans can afford cars, if not horses, access to the parks, because of the roads, made those parks available to virtually all American, handicapped, middle and lower incomes, and elderly included.

So why are wilderness areas so popular with the general public?  It is because the idea of “Wilderness” sounds good to so many people.  They have embraced the idea without knowing about the unintended consequences of becoming the “King’s Forests”.  But in reality, it becomes a land of no use except for the affluent and healthy who only use a tiny portion of the wilderness area.  Instead it is allowed to burn, destroying old growth forests, destroying wild life habitat, and watersheds.  But it sounds good,  “A Wilderness or Roadless area.”  Most citizens are clueless and are unaware of the restrictions on national forests.  Most citizens do not want to see the wilderness areas burnt up in forest fires destroying the timber, the watersheds, the wildlife habitat and even wildlife.  Most citizens would not agree to allowing wildfires to kill the baby rabbits, cub bears, and fawns.  They have been sold a big lie and are clueless to what wilderness and roadless areas really are.

Back in the mid ’70s I had a colleague who worked for the Forest Service.  He reported there was a study done on the Bob Marshal Wilderness area either in the late ’60s or early ’70s.  The survey showed that the average, I said average, income of those visiting the park at that time was $25,000.  That was in the ’70s when the starting salary for teacher was $6,000.  Has there been any recent studies done to assess the average income of those using Wilderness areas lately?  I doubt it.  This is not information many people would not wants the public to know.  It would confirm that the Wilderness areas are reserved for the wealthy and the healthy.

A second issue I have is that Congress put the brakes on Teddy Roosevelt with the creation of national forests, and Congress put the brakes on runaway Wildlerness Areas so that only Congress can create a wilderness area. Please be reminded that ‘Congress, is the “Voice of the People.”’  So much for that.  Now when the Forest Service wants, but cannot get, a wilderness area designation, they declare it a Wilderness Management Area.  That’s the same thing as a wilderness area, but doesn’t have the official designation by Congress.  In other words, a de facto wilderness area is created without Congressional approval.  Now add in the roadless areas which have many of the same characteristics as a Wilderness Area and we have a huge “take away” from the general public.

So to the wilderness/roadless people I ask the following questions.  Why should the elderly, handicapped and less fortunate people be denied access to the any portion of our national forest?  The second question, how much is enough wildlerness/roadless area?  And lastly, what is wrong with roads and access for the general public, elderly, handicapped and less fortunate, if the roads are built to appropriate standards?


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12 Responses to Wilderness and Roadless, the King’s Forests

  1. Frank Lance Craighead says:

    You got it backwards. Wilderness is open to anyone, all you need is your own two feet. The “accessible backcountry” is reserved for the rich; those who can afford expensive ATV’s, ORV’s, mountain bikes, motorcycles, etc., and return to their safe homes before it gets too dark out.

  2. Frank Lance Craighead says:

    you asked The second question, how much is enough wildlerness/roadless area? E. O. Wilson says 50% if the land area of the planet.

    • robins65 says:

      Frank, Apparently you do not understand the restrictions on wilderness areas. No motorized vehicles. Please re-read my post. I specifically say the healthy and the wealthy. It is true that anyone with two feet can “walk” as long and as far as they can into a wilderness area. But if they only have one foot, they are restricted. There are no ATV or motor cycles or any motorized vehicles, equipment, etc allowed in wilderness areas.. That is why I specially say the “healthy” to identify those people as being able to ride bikes, hike whatever. The second group are those that can afford horses or mules, or donkey or goats or whatever “livestock:” they choose to access the wilderness. That takes money and resources most of our society cannot afford. Consequently, the wilderness, wilderness management areas and roadless areas becomes a private area for the healthy and the wealthy.

      But I guess for someone who would aspire to 50% of the plant’s land being wilderness it would be difficult for them to embracing the idea that the handicapped, aged, children and less affluent should also be afforded the opportunity to enjoy the natural resources of their great nation as well.

      • Kimberly Johnson says:

        I think you misread mr. craigheads, last reply. he said according to EO Wilson, father of ecology, it is 50% wilderness, he wasn’t claiming it as his own. Also the disabled, children, and aged of the united states have plenty of natural resources to enjoy, so i do not think you can say that they are not afforded the opportunity to enjoy natural resources of this great nation

      • I think you read mr. craigheads response incorrectly. He said E.O. Wilson, the father of ecology, indicated wilderness should be 50%. Also, the aged, disabled and children of this great nation are afforded the opportunity to enjoy natural resources. There are plenty of beautiful and magnificent natural resources with roads!

  3. roselakedawn says:

    Robin, you are absolutely correct! !! Being almost 60 and having 2 bad hips and split vertebrae I can tell anyone who cares, being unable to be in my favorite places or see my son go without me makes my heart ache. You are spot on here! !! Only someone who has never had to run from wildfire would say that this much wilderness is acceptable. Protecting it also means being able to reach it!

  4. Anonymous says:

    This subject has some resonance for me. Towards the end of his life, when his health no longer permitted him to walk much, my dad lamented that several places he cherished had been declared off-limits to vehicles and could only be accessed by young and able-bodied people. It was frustrating — but there were other places to go, beautiful and marvelous places, and so we did. In the end, it wasn’t that big a deal.

    Moreover, I like to think that although dad didn’t know much about the ecological effects of roads, he would have changed his mind if he did. In a nutshell, roads bring death and diminishment. Which isn’t to say there shouldn’t be any — that’s neither practical nor desirable — but why begrudge leaving a last few places alone? Some 83 percent of the United States is within a half-mile of a road. “How much is enough,” asks Robin. I say that’s enough.

  5. roselakedawn says:

    It is not a “few” , places. Clearly, there is a huge misconception as to how many of these roads are closed. And, an even larger one over the billions spent in taxpayer money over the years to build and then shut off these roads. This was never meant to work this way. The costs to revitalize the roads even if just for fire access is critical for the investment we already made. The American public has been duped once again. All at their own expense. Just to make the special interest groups lawsuits go away. How sad. Now those groups are the very machine they claimed not to want. Power hungry dictatorship of policy is not a direction any of us need to go. If everyone owns those lands, why can’t we access them?

  6. robins65 says:

    Kimberly, I did not misread Mr. Craighead’s comments. I may have mistakenly assumed that because he was quoting Wilson, that he aspired to his comment. Mr. Craighead did not specifically say he agreed so that may have been an incorrect assumption on my part. You miss the point with regard to access. I agree there are plenty of other places the handicapped and aged can visit and maybe they don’t need or deserve to be able to enjoy our national forests. I disagree. Your logic would suggest that because there are other opportunities for them to enjoy, they don’t need to experience our national forests. Are you aware that in 1964 our wilderness areas forests were only 9.1 million acres. Today they are 109,129,657 and they have grown almost every year since 1964? So since 1964 we have reserved an additional 100 million acres of land for the healthy and wealthy. And this does not include the wilderness management areas and the roadless areas. Again, I am not opposed so some wilderness area But when is enough enough?

  7. Don Innes says:

    Where can I get a copy of the “HEALTHY FORESTS” FILM ON FACEBOOK ?

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