Pocatello, ID -- The BlueRibbon Coalition, a national recreational advocacy group, recently applauded a group of 18 lawmakers who sent a letter to U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell challenging the agency's ability to manage lands as "de-facto" Wilderness.
The Coalition, as well as recreationists across Montana and Northern Idaho, has been opposing an attempt by the U.S. Forest Service Region 1 to manage all Recommended Wilderness Areas (RWAs) in a de-facto Wilderness state, which bans all motorized recreation and mountain bike use.
BRC's Executive Director, Greg Mumm said, "Only Congress can designate Wilderness, which makes sense because Wilderness is the most restrictive land management designation on the planet. It is not wise, nor legal, for any federal land management agency to establish de-facto Wilderness areas. We are pleased to see members of Congress remind the U.S. Forest Service of this important fact."
The letter was spearheaded by Natural Resources Committee ranking member Doc Hastings (WA) and Rob Bishop (UT), National Parks, Forests and Public Lands Subcommittee ranking member. The letter noted, "It is a baseless, twisted reading of the law to suggest that Congress intended to allow an agency to administratively declare an area as recommended for wilderness designation and then to manage that area exactly as if Congress had taken action to make such a designation."
The letter was at least partly in response to an earlier letter sent to Chief Tidwell in support of the Region 1 Policy. That letter was organized by Representative Raul Grijalva (AZ), Chairman of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands. Grijalva and 72 Representatives requested Tidwell expand its Region 1 guidance across all USFS managed lands.
Mumm noted that the policy suggested by Rep. Grijalva creates a situation where currently authorized motorized and mechanized recreation does not preclude lands becoming RWA's—but then mandates those uses be all but eliminated. Mumm said, "Since the existing uses do not stop the lands from being recommended as Wilderness, then certainly those historic activities should be allowed to continue until Congress acts."
Mumm also stressed that a "de-facto" Wilderness policy precludes collaborative solutions such as those reached in recent land use legislation. "Such a policy presupposes the agency's desires on what is properly between Congress and the American people. By doing so, it eliminates the opportunity for motorized and mountain bike users to reach acceptable compromise with State and local governments, Wilderness advocates, and other stakeholders."
More Info On The Web:
Letter to Chief Tidwell
Previous BRC Nationwide Action Alert
Congressman Grijalva's Dear Colleague Letter