When Is Enough, Enough?
In case you haven’t heard the big news out of Washington, D.C. lately… no it isn’t health care that we thought we better inform you about in this issue of the Roundup. President Obama joined with Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack Sept. 4 to sign a proclamation declaring September as “National Wilderness Month” in recognition of the 45th anniversary of the Wilderness Act.
To some this is big news, but many in our state would like to forget about it. If any member of Congress wants to be a hero back East, efforts to designate more wilderness will surely draw applause from their constituency. Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D–N.Y.) was a prime example this past spring. In May her bill to designate 24 million more acres in western states received a committee hearing. Our good citizen, rancher and Sublette County Commissioner Joel Bousman testified against the legislation.
Currently the national Wilderness Preservation System contains 109,492,591 acres in the total U.S. That’s just slightly larger than the state of California or 4.82 percent of the total U.S. Fifty-two percent of America’s wilderness is found in Alaska, so 2.73 percent of the contiguous United States, an area about the size of South Dakota, is wilderness. I’ve driven across South Dakota on many occasions and it’s a big state. Something I didn’t know is that only six states are without designated wilderness areas and all of them, short Iowa and Kansas, are back East.
You could say that getting land categorized as wilderness is easy. Anyone can recommend wilderness to their elected representatives in Congress, and then both the House and the Senate must agree on which areas should be designated and their exact boundaries. After the Senate and House agree, the recommendation is forwarded on to the President to either sign or veto. Historically, only one veto has occurred. That came from President Ronald Reagan in 1988. Earlier in his administration (1984), however, a record number of wilderness acres were designated.
When an area is proposed, it is managed similar to or more stringent than a wilderness area. It can tie up management for many years. This really needs to change as it takes all management away from some areas and stymies projects beneficial to many aspects of multiple-use.
We can all argue about the pros and cons of wilderness designations, but some people want all that they can get, just like the wolf issue. Remember, wilderness takes all management away; it just becomes a place to walk into. It’s limiting not only to those who graze livestock in wilderness areas, but to recreationists, hunters, wildlife managers and all users of public lands.
Congratulations to Terry Cleveland and the family of the late Olin Sims. Both men are being inducted into the Wyoming Outdoor Hall of Fame during a dinner and ceremony in conjunction with the annual Wyoming Hunting and Fishing Expo this weekend.
Terry is a great friend and supporter of agriculture and is still making his mark on Wyoming. Olin was involved in ranching and conservation in his shortened life and truly set an example of what good Wyomingites are. We are honored to call them sons of Wyoming.