The purpose of Whence Our Wilderness is to explore the tension that arises between the need for the public to have wide access to our wilderness areas, especially those that make up a major part of our national parks and the need for more isolation by some forms of wildlife and to help the general public and their elected representatives to better understand these issues. There are good underlying reasons for both points of view and there is no good reason they should be considered as mutually exclusive.
By examining the origin or basis (the 'whence' of Whence Our Wilderness) of legislation to set aside and protect designated areas as wilderness we hope to provide, not only some clarity on what we should expect of our wilderness at present, but some guidance for where future efforts (whither) to maintain and extend these precious areas should go.
There is general consensus within the American public on the need to set aside special areas as Wilderness under the definition as given in 'The Wilderness Act of 1964' and briefly summarized in the bill "as an area where the earth and it's community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain".
There has also been a general feeling among the American public that these 'wilderness areas' should be administered "for the use and enjoyment of the American people in such a manner as will leave them unimpaired for future use and enjoyment as wilderness…"
Not only does the enabling legislation for national parks such as the North Cascades National Park and the later (1988)legislation designating over 90% of the park as the Stephen Mather Wilderness stress the importance of the public being able "to use, benefit and be inspired" by visits to these special places, it is undisputable that the greatest possible support for preserving and extending this wilderness heritage will be realized when these places are accessible to the widest possible cross section of the American people. However, it has also been recognized that there may be certain wilderness areas or regions within these areas that particularly lend themselves to the protection, nurturing or re-introduction of specific forms of wildlife and that in these areas it may be prudent to place certain restrictions or allow more obstacles to human incursions than in other wilderness areas. Such recognition may also provide a basis for extending existing wilderness areas or designating entirely new areas for wilderness status.
To get a dialog going we would like to solicit your help. If you would like to submit your ideas or observations please email us and we will try to fit them into our framework.
Hopefully, as time goes on, we will be able to more clearly see the different sides to the issues involving management of our wilderness and the directions we need to go to preserve and extend this precious resource while still maintaining the widest possible access to these inspiring wild places for the American people.
We welcome your help.
The right of Americans to have wide public access while still protecting the environment is guaranteed by current law. It is now time to formulate new laws that will go beyond PL 89-669 'The National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act' and subsequent amendments to spell out in clear terms the rationale for and the methods to be used along with any special restrictions allowable in setting aside certain areas of wilderness for 'refuge' or 'sanctuary' status especially in presently existing wilderness. Any new laws need to provide for a review of previous administrative decisions which have significantly reduced the American people's access to such areas.
There is a feeling among many that previously existing access is now being restricted or cut off by those in charge of wilderness areas so as to bring about de facto 'sanctuary wilderness' in places which did not originally and should not now qualify for such designation.
And on the other side of the coin it may be that new guidelines written into law will provide the justification and impetus for putting the additional restrictions on human incursions into areas designated as 'sanctuary wilderness' that will allow certain rare or endangered species to regain or preserve their niche in a particular ecosystem. As the effects of climate change are felt - in regions of higher elevation especially - a change in designation for certain critical areas may help certain species in moving to new habitats so as to avoid becoming endangered.
It is our hope that this site will be useful in advancing this dialog.
Upper Stehekin Valley Road Access
For those who wonder how closing the Upper Valley Road was justified by NPS check this
link to their Environmental Assessment as a pdf file:
Upper Road EA pdf file
For those who thought the enacting legislation and 1995 Final General Management Plan
ensured that the road would be kept open see:
1995 General Management Plan pdf file