Wilderness Watch stands firm

  Dear HCN,
Since when is standing firm on fundamental wilderness principles seen as counter to those very principles? "The wild card" by Matt Jenkins (HCN, 3/3/03" The Wild Card) portrayed Wilderness Watch as an organization more concerned about "purity" than reality. The reality is: They seem to be the only organization that has the courage to articulate wilderness as the one land-management category that "needs" purity.

There are no "new deals" for wilderness. The description reeks of the same old public-land exploitation that has destroyed our old-growth forests, salmon runs, wildlife diversity and areas of solitude. The difference is: that exploitation is now wrapped in new rhetorical packaging and stamped with the name wilderness. Opposition to that may be espoused by some as elitism — as was insinuated in Jenkins’ article — but, if wilderness doesn’t survive as a modicum of purity in the scheme of America’s land management, where will wilderness survive?

The article indicated that ranchers in the Steens are getting a raw deal because they can’t drive into the new "wilderness." I’ve hunted and hiked in the new Steens "Wilderness" since the 1960s — when most of the ranchers rode horses in that country. As a horse travels, there isn’t 10 miles between any two borders of the new wilderness boundary — a three-hour horse ride. Driving 4x4s and quads isn’t traditional, nor is it necessary. It’s a travesty in that arid and fragile land.

When compromise reaches the stages that it evidently has today in regards to "new" wilderness designation, we’d better think up a new name for it. Wilderness Watch is the one bright light in today’s brownout of wilderness proponents.

Scott Stouder
Corvallis, Orego
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