And so it begins.
On December 23, 2010 Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced plans "to reverse a Bush era policy and make millions of undeveloped acres of land once again eligible for federal wilderness protection." ( Bozeman Daily Chronicle 12/24/10). Secretary Salazar and Interior Department Management will review some 220 million acres to possibly designate as wilderness. This is an area larger than the entire state of Texas . However this only the beginning.
Secretary Salazar has clearly stated he will designate certain areas as "Wild Lands". The term "Wild Lands" has not been officially defined by the Interior Department or Congress. Because “Wild Lands” is not defined, it allows Secretary Salazar and BLM Director Bob Abbey to use their discretion to define areas within the 220 million acres as off-limits to any activities they disagree with. These activities will include on and off-road mechanized travel, livestock grazing, and placing any gas and oil exploration completely off-limits. The current administration's relationship with the environmental lobby certainly supports the restrictions of these types of activities.
The question isn't how much land will be declared "Wild Lands" but rather why will the land be declared as such? Are we wearing out the existing wilderness? According to Citizens for Balanced Use there are over 107 million acres of designated wilderness in the U.S. That's an area larger than the state of California . Does anyone really believe that this wilderness is being overrun from hikers and wildlife enthusiasts? Quite the opposite. Past surveys suggest that only 3% of the outdoor recreating public utilize wilderness for their recreation. Remember that wilderness areas cannot be travelled by mechanized vehicles which include mountain bikes.
All the facts aren't in yet. If the past is any indication much of the proposed "Wild Lands" will consist of Federal property rich in natural resources. Placing these lands off-limits makes the U.S. even more dependent on foreign imports while denying Americans access to their own resources and stymieing good paying jobs.
Remember ANWR? The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge? Originally established in 1960 as the Arctic National Wildlife Range , it was expanded by President Carter and the Democrat-controlled Congress in 1980 and its designation was changed from "Range" to "Wilderness" thus placing it off limits to natural resource exploration. This area has one of the largest known oil reserves in North America . The area of development for oil extraction is estimated to be around 2,000 acres. The total size of ANWR is 19 million acres. That's .01 percent of land usage. Even if the total amount of developmental area is ten times that number, it’s foolish not to develop it. This isn't even bringing into play the amount of ANWR that is considered by many objective observers to be nothing more than barren tundra. (For more on the development of ANWR click here).
While declaring ANWR a wilderness area wasn't a death blow to an already struggling U.S. economy in 1980, it did nothing to help the U.S. ease its dependence on foreign oil. It was, however, a huge victory for the environmental movement. This would be one of the few victories for the movement that would actually pass through the halls of Congress. The court system and fiat would prove to be much more lucrative venues for them. The environmental movement is well funded, well organized and gaining momentum through a sympathetic press and an ignorant public. With the ANWR victory, they were just warming up.
One of the keys to a “land grab” is to deny access of lands to off road recreationalists. The theory is that once access is denied, for whatever reason, the ease at which the land can be made a wilderness is magnified many times.
Access to public lands is being shut down where ever it is easy to do so and with 100% cooperation of which ever federal agency is involved. In the Gallatin Forest, snowmobilers were told certain areas would be closed unless proof that these areas had been used for snowmobiling before 1975. After the proof was given in sworn affidavits and testimony, and U.S. Forest Service signs of the era promoting snowmobiling, an activist Federal judge closed the areas anyway.
Areas in the Beaverhead National Forest were closed because they were "potential" breeding grounds for wolverines. No scientific evidence has been offered as to why wolverines are “potentially” breeding in five feet of snow at 7500 feet with no food supply. This is just wildlife management theory but in this case, it was good enough. These are but a couple of examples of multiple-use closures in my area. These closures occurred with less than adequate and less than accurate evidence and reasoning.
The biggest question to all of this is "why can't there be any compromise or middle ground?” The answer is simple. The environmental movement has proven time and again they want it all. From wanting snowmobiles totally removed from Yellowstone National Park , to the national monument designation on the Upper Missouri River , to welshing on delisting the wolf from the Endangered Species list after the population reached 300 (it's currently 1700). Environmentalists cannot be trusted. Their credibility with stock growers and multiple-users is non-existent. While their credibility with the general public may be in question, their strength and influence with the press is growing as well as with virtually any elected representative with a “D” after their name.
This movement must be fought Maybe you believe that this virtual takeover of OUR land is so the current administration can use it as collateral for borrowing more money. Maybe you believe that this is a backdoor attempt to get the U.S. to comply with Agenda 21, the United Nation's attempt to negate our sovereignty. Regardless, the environmental movement and its supporters including those within our own government, will strive to control every acre of land they can and our nation will suffer for it.
We all need to get informed and be involved. Stay alert and aware of the areas in your state that are being designated "Wild Lands". Write your State and Federal representatives and call them frequently. Most importantly, challenge the environmentalists where ever you can. Their arguments are easily defeated as the facts are against them. But unless they are challenged, the rest of the sheep in the flock will follow their inaccurate, sometime fraudulent, and often emotional rhetoric.
Thanks to my friend Ben E for his great additions to this post. MRM