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Wilderness reinventory a cruel joke (Read 401 times)

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Wilderness reinventory a cruel joke
01/16/11 at 09:30:17
By Sen. Steve Urquhart, For the Deseret News
Published: Friday, Dec. 31, 2010 12:00 a.m. MST

"Wilderness" is a joke. Worse, it is a cruel joke to Utah's education funding and to Utah's rural economies. "Wilderness" is defined by Congress to mean 5,000 acres of roadless land and well, the rest doesn't matter. Although wilderness designation originally was intended for unique, pristine areas offering outstanding opportunities for solitude, it now merely means any 5,000-acre chunk of public land where roads can be ignored or red-lined. The quality of the land or the experience is irrelevant. It is strictly a numbers thing.

The continuous theme of Western public lands is excess. The only thing that changes is the trophy-of-the-day (e.g., land, bison, grazing, timber, and, now, wilderness for the Green Barons). In the West, enough is never enough.

Special interest groups first wanted 3 million acres of wilderness in Utah. Then, 5 million. Now, 9 million acres which means every other acre in Utah that is managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). In a serious case of grade inflation, every other acre is now the best. Although Congress never changed the standards, protection of unique, pristine areas has morphed into capture of average areas. Why? The argument is that the land is imperiled by use. Imperiled when, without wilderness protection, the amount of wilderness is metastasizing? Hardly.

"Wilderness" is about politics. Sparsely populated areas in the West are Republican. Democratic administrations have nothing to lose in those areas by savaging the local economy. But, they do stand to gain urban votes by protecting the West from yahoos who, well, yahoos who have apparently grown wilderness 300 percent over the past 30 years.

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