Wilderness Myths

Wilderness Myths and Misconceptions

Opposition to Wilderness designation is often based on various myths and misconceptions:

1) False: "Wilderness designation will take private land and put it under Federal control."

Federal Wilderness can be designated only on existing federal lands, such as the White Mountain National Forest.  No private lands are involved or transferred to federal ownership.

2) False: "The Friends Proposal will close existing roads, snowmobile trails, and motorized access to the WMNF."

The Friend's proposal does not include any areas where motorized use currently occurs.  No existing trails, roads, or motorized use would be restricted by the proposal in any way.

3) False: "Wilderness designation will prohibit hunting and fishing."

Hunting and fishing are permitted in Federal Wilderness areas in accordance with State laws.  The Friends' proposal would not restrict these activities in any way.

4) False: "Dogs aren't allowed in Wilderness areas."

Dogs are permitted in all Wilderness areas in the WMNF.

5) False: "Wilderness designation only makes sense in completely pristine areas like Alaska."

Congress can also designate areas that bear the marks of previous human activity, as long as they are managed as areas where "natural forces prevail."  These areas can sometimes provide the most profound Wilderness experience, since they demonstrate nature's ability to recover from previous disturbances.

6) False: "Wilderness designation will prevent ongoing planning and management of the land."

Although timber harvesting does not normally occur in Wilderness, this does not mean the land is "unmanaged."  Active planning and management is essential for Wilderness areas, just as it is for other Federal lands.

7) False: "Wilderness designation will prevent local input.  The feds will make all the rules."

Wilderness areas are maintained under a detailed management plan, which is based on management objectives and public input, just like other National Forest Lands.  Wilderness management plans undergo periodic review, just like the overall Forest Plan.

8) False: "Wilderness areas don't meet the multiple use requirement for National Forests."

Wilderness areas continue to meet all multiple use objectives except timber production.  These include wildlife habitat, recreation, watershed protection, scenic qualities, and air purification.

9) False: "Wilderness designation will lock up the land - Its too inflexible."

Only by establishing long-term management goals can we have any hope of protecting these lands for future generations.  But changes can still be made through the management plan, or by congressional action.

10) False: "Wilderness designation is just an excuse for expanded recreational use."

Although low-impact recreation is a common benefit of Wilderness, the primary goal is the preservation of an area where "natural forces prevail."  As a general rule, recreational activities aren't expanded in Wilderness, and may even be restricted if they compromise Wilderness objectives.

11) False: "Wilderness designation will just attract more use."

Although Wilderness designation might attract some additional use in the short term, Wilderness designation is virtually the only means of providing long-term protection for Federal lands.  Particularly in high-use areas like the WMNF, Wilderness areas are the only places likely to be preserved for future generations.

12) False: "Wilderness rules prohibit wheel chairs and other devices needed by the disabled."

Disabled persons may use any required type of mechanical assistance that is suitable for use in an "indoor pedestrian area."  This permits wheel chairs and similar types of human-powered devices.

13) False: "Forest fires can't be extinguished in Wilderness."

Although wildfires play an important role in many forest ecosystems, their treatment is determined by local needs and the applicable management plan.  Fires will always be extinguished if they pose any hazard to life or there is a risk of spreading outside Wilderness.

14) False: "Rescues and fire fighting are impaired because motorized equipment isn't permitted."

Although non-motorized means are preferred, motorized equipment can be authorized by Forest Service personnel when required.

15) False: "The Friends proposal is just the work of outside environmental groups."

The Friends of the Sandwich Range was formed and organized by local residents who are concerned about their environment.  We have a long history of involvement with WMNF planning and management.  Our members spend over a thousand hours a year doing volunteer conservation work in the WMNF.

16) False: "The Friends proposal will result in significant cuts in timber harvesting."

Our proposal was carefully designed to identify and protect some of the most significant wildlands in the Sandwich Range, while minimizing the impact on current timber management areas.  Of the 32,700 acre proposal, only one third would come from the "timber base."  The remainder is in steep, wet, or sensitive areas that would not be logged anyway.

17) False: "We already have enough Wilderness!"

Wilderness lands comprise just 4.4% of the entire United States.  95% of all US Wilderness lies in Alaska and the Western states, with less than 5% east of the Mississippi, and just 0.2% in the Northeast - home to nearly a quarter of the US population.

Also read about Wilderness Facts

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