Skip Navigation Links

WILDERNESS IN THE EASTERN REGION

The preservation of wilderness began as a part of the earliest efforts to preserve the natural wonders of the West such as Yellowstone National Park. Since the Forest Service was made the proprietor of much of the forest land in the West, it was involved from the beginning in wilderness management. However, an apparent paradox was caused by the dedication of the Forest Service to the multiple use concept. Obviously an area cannot long be considered a wilderness if its timber, water, and mineral resources are being utilized through development.

In the 1920's and 30's, the Forest Service developed greater interest in the wilderness. This was partly a result of competition with the National Park Service for recreation dollars and partly because of genuine wilderness movement developed within the Forest Service. In fact, much of the intellectual leadership of the national wilderness movement came from the Forest Service. Three Forest Service men, Aldo Leopold, Arthur Carhart, and Bob Marshall, played crucial roles.

Aldo Leopold

Aldo Leopold has become a near-legendary figure among environmentalists. His philosophy best expressed in his poetic Sand County Almanac, is one of harmony, balance, and inter-dependence within the ecosystem. Wilderness, he believed, was crucial to the national heritage. As an Assistant District Forester in New Mexico, he conceived and received approval for a wildland area on the headwaters of the Gila River. The Gila National Forest area set the pattern for the Forest Service's emerging wilderness policy. [1]

Leopold's work led the Forest Service toward a more sympathetic view of wilderness. After his departure from the Service he taught as a professor at the University of Wisconsin. There he helped train a generation of conservation and wildlife leaders. Through his writings he became one of the principal intellectual forces in the environmental movement.

Arthur Carhart

Arthur Carhart was a Forest Service landscape architect. He was commissioned in 1919 to survey planned home sites in the Trapper's Lake area of Colorado's White River National Forest. Even though the assignment was to locate home sites, Carhart became convinced that building summer homes in the area was a mistake. The pristine grandeur of Trapper's Lake should not be marred by cabins and boat docks. He was able to convince Forest Service officials to cancel the summer homes and allow him to make a recreational plan for the area. The fact that Carhart was able to sell his plan indicates the existence of a latent wilderness sympathy in the Forest Service. [2]

In the 1920's, Carhart joined forces with Leopold to sell the Forest Service on the idea of creating a primitive canoe travel area within the Superior National Forest. Their work came to fruition in 1926 when Secretary of Agriculture William H. Jardine authorized the creation of the Caribou Roadless Area which became in 1964 the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. These actions represented an extremely important shift by the Forest Service toward wilderness preservation. [3]

Bob Marshall

Bob Marshall was Chief Forester for the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) where he established a system of wilderness on Indian lands. When he met with resistance from the National Park Service he left the BIA and joined the Forest Service. In 1937, he became head of the Forest Service's Recreation Division. There he received the attention of Chief Ferdinand A. Silcox. Marshall's wilderness advocacy led to important new regulations and were a large step toward a comprehensive wilderness policy.

Changing Attitudes

It is significant to note that in those pre-World War II years, there was little pressure from groups or elements outside the Forest Service to take actions such as those promoted by Leopold, Carhart, and Marshall. Most of the motivation and original thinking concerning wilderness, in those years came from within the Forest Service as, indeed, did the specific proposals. Much credit should go to the Forest Service for listening to such men as Leopold, Carhart and Marshall and for making the first concrete moves to protect American wilderness. [4]

New Concerns

In 1970, Chief Edward P. Cliff told the Forest Service, "Our direction must be and is being changed." He referred to the necessity that the Service adapt its thinking to the new wilderness and environmental concerns that had become a public reality in the 1960's. Adapting would not be easy for many older foresters. They had considered themselves to be the experts on efficient management of the National Forests. Now they had to be concerned about the long-range social and ecological impacts of their actions. They had to cope with an institutionalized concept of wilderness. And they had to deal with a whole new generation of environmental experts within the Forest Service—biologists, hydrologists, soil scientists, landscape architects, recreation planners, and archaeologists.

To further complicate matters, the Forest Service found itself besieged by the forest products industry to increase planned cutting on the National Forests. There was a growing demand for softwoods for home construction. The situation built up until President Jimmy Carter ordered the Forest Service to speed up plans to increase cutting on selected National Forests. The Carter Administration said specifically it was time to depart from the old nondeclining, even-flow policy. In compliance, the Forest Service gave to Congress, in 1980 a list of 16 National Forests which had large inventories of "old-growth softwood suitable for home construction." Pending Congressional approval, the National Forests would be used for accelerated cutting. [5]

The pressures for more timber cutting in the Eastern Region had begun much earlier, when the maturing eastern Forests began to be commercially productive. However, it was not until the wilderness and environmental movements surfaced in the 1960's that strong voices were raised against the general principle of harvesting in the National Forest System. Timber sales on the National Forests had always been limited and controlled, but the motives, except in time of war, had usually been for reasons of good forest management. Now, new considerations were being presented, mainly involving environmental concerns.

Many environmentalists believed that a National Wilderness System was needed to protect wilderness areas of the National Forests from any kind of cutting. Because of isolation and economic factors, the western National Forests have been more or less immune to cutting while the Forests of the East were being harvested.

Throughout the 1950's and 1960's, the Wilderness Society, spearheaded by its leader, Howard Zahniser, along with the Sierra Club and the National Wildlife Federation had lobbied incessantly for passage of a federal wilderness act. Zahniser had a plan for a National Wilderness System where incompatible uses would be prohibited and where areas under consideration for inclusion would be protected. Zahniser wanted the System to be administered by existing federal agencies, but an appointed wilderness commission was to recommend action to Congress. [6]


The Wilderness Act of 1964

The work of Zahniser and other wilderness advocates came to fruition in 1964 with the passage of the Wilderness Act of that year. The Act provided that national wilderness areas could be designated by Congress if the lands fitted the definition of wilderness set by the Act. The Act defined wilderness for administrative purposes as an area "untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor." Wilderness was an area which retained its "primeval character" and was "without permanent improvements or human habitation". Such areas, when designated as wilderness, were to be protected and managed so as to preserve natural conditions. They could show some imprint-of man, but the general appearance would have to be natural and man's work would have to be "substantially unnoticeable."

In the Wilderness Act, Congress went beyond the purpose of simply protecting wilderness. The National Wilderness Preservation System, which the Act authorized, was to be used also to meet public needs for recreation. The Wilderness Act required that in order to be designated as wilderness, areas should have "outstanding opportunities for solitude or a primitive and unconfined type of recreation." [7]

The Wilderness Act was to be a sweeping program to standardize wilderness practices in all government agencies and to shift the power to designate wilderness to Congress. However, concessions had been made to powerful pressure groups. Grazing was to be permitted in wilderness areas. Reservoirs and waterworks were possible. Mining would be permitted until 1984. But in the important and increasingly sensitive area of timber harvesting, there would be none in designated wilderness areas. Basically, the Act allowed continuation of Forest Service policies toward wilderness which had protected wild and primitive areas reasonably well for a quarter of a century. [8]


A Burning Issue—The BWCA

In the 1970's the 1 million acre Boundary Waters Canoe Area in the Superior National Forest remained a burning issue in the Eastern Region. Because of pressures from conservationists, wildlife organizations, canoeist groups, forest products interests, and others, the BWCA was a constant concern to key people in the Regional Office. Regional Forester Jay H. Cravens and the staff had to keep reminding themselves that there were other issues, programs, and users of the other 2 million acres of the Superior National Forest. The Region was proud of the achievements in the BWCA, especially the fact that there was heavy use by canoeists while at the same time there was effective and sensitive timber management. But timber management was a big part of the BWCA problem. Pressure groups either, violently opposed or favored timber sales. There had also been improvements in other aspects of BWCA management—better wildlife habitat and greater numbers of timber wolves. But such achievements failed to impress many of the critics.

The BWCA had been a resource manager's nightmare for a long time. Many people, including Jay H. Cravens, had thought for years that the area should be designated a Wilderness and put into the National Wilderness Preservation System. It was done in 1964, but in doing so Congress allowed timber cutting and the use of motor boats in the BWCA. Any resource manager trying to manage a wilderness where timber cutting and motor boats were allowed was in line for a heavy dose of trouble from the conservation and wilderness advocates. As Cravens phrased it—"the BWCA was a design for disaster for Forest Service administrators!"

Some environmentalists considered the Forest Service's efforts at effective management to be bureaucratic stalling. They wanted a single use, canoe wilderness created at once. With that goal in mind, they took the matter into federal court, claiming multiple use activities violated a portion of the Wilderness Act under which the BWCA operated.

In two cases, Izaak Walton League of America v. St. Clair and Minnesota Public Interest Research Group (MPIRG) v. Butz, the conservationists sought to end multiple uses on the BWCA. In the first case, the Izaak Walton League stopped a mine operator from mining in the BWCA. In the second, the MPIRG, a statewide student organization, fled a suit against the Secretary of Agriculture to stop planned timber cutting. [9]

The MPIRG case was tried in Federal District Court in Minneapolis. The stage was set for a confrontation between wilderness advocates and canoeists and an array of federal and private agencies, including the Forest Service, the Department of Agriculture, the Office of General Counsel, the U.S. Attorney's Office, the timber industry, the Fish and Wildlife Service wolf experts, and others. Towards the end of the 30-day trial, Regional Forester Cravens took the stand for five days. As the responsible federal official he defended the Forest Service programs in the BWCA, the people involved, the management, the decisions, and the Environmental Impact Study then under way. Under what Cravens and others considered ruthless and antagonistic questioning from Federal District Judge Miles Lord, Cravens held his own. "I had the support of the entire Forest Service and we were on sound ground biologically and legally," he said later. When it was all over, Cravens quipped, "I can sincerely say that I was glad to be delivered from the right hand of that Lord!" [10] To no one's surprise, the Forest Service lost the MPIRG case in Judge Lord's court. The Judge said:

"The language used [in federal law] makes it clear that the Secretary of Agriculture is to enunciate and enforce any and all restrictions which are necessary to maintain the primitive character of the BWCA . . . . When there is a conflict between maintaining the primitive character of the BWCA and allowing logging or other uses, the former must be supreme." [11]

A Superior Court later reversed Judge Lord's decision, which left matters still up in the air. About this time the management plan for the BWCA was made public, but the plan did little to settle matters. The goals outlined in the plan, which included continued harvesting and mechanized travel, seemed to many wilderness advocates and conservationists to be in conflict with maintaining the primitive character of the BWCA required by federal law. [12] One critic asked: "Is virgin forest wilderness to be managed . . . like a suburban lawn or a game park?" [13]

From another quarter came complaints about limitations on timber cutting. The local timber industry maintained that the Wilderness Act allowed logging in all areas of the BWCA. Local residents, fearing unemployment, wished to see logging continue. The local public also wanted continued use of motorboats and snowmobiles. [14]

Logging on the BWCA

Since its inception, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area has been a battlefield over logging. It is the usual confrontation—environmentalists versus forest products industry and local economic interests. There was also the added dimension of canoeists. The BWCA is the most important government owned one-of-a-kind, canoe recreation area in the country.

To understand the problem, it is necessary to know that the BWCA was divided into Northern and Southern Zones in 1948. The Northern Zone, was 362,000 acres of lakes, waterways, and rugged terrain with the most attractive canoe routes. In this Zone there was to be absolutely no logging. The other Zone, the Southern, was 677,000 acres of primarily forest with large areas five to ten square miles in size separating the canoe routes. Logging was allowed in this area, and indeed was considered of great economic benefit to the local communities and to the forest products industry of Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Since the rise of the environmental and wilderness movements, the arguments had grown more heated on how the BWCA should be managed. They have evolved into several basic plans. Generally, the canoeists and wilderness advocates wanted no cutting and no fire protection. The commercial interests wanted cutting in the Southern Zone and aerial water drops to prevent the spread of big fires. Some opposed logging, but favored prescribed burning as a management tool.

The adopted plan, a compromise, consisted of fire protection in both zones, no logging in the Northern Zone, and logging in the Southern Zone with the usual Forest Service forest restoration programs. While this plan did not wholly please canoeists and wilderness advocates or the forest products industry, it was clearly the most effective management policy. Through proper forest management, the harvested forests would eventually be restored healthier and more resistant to insects. White pine could be restored in the forest so that it would someday resemble the original forest. In the meantime, creating an uneven-aged forest benefited wildlife, especially moose, deer, and grouse.

Human Use

Perhaps as great a threat to the BWCA as logging and fire was the damage done by recreation. Erosion of campsite ground, vandalism, littering, disposal of human waste, and water contamination by campers were only part of the story. Use of boats, snowmobiles, and all-terrain vehicles damaged the environment. And facilities such as lodges and truck portages for canoes detracted from the wilderness image although such amenities facilitated public use. A fundamental question remained unsettled—how to provide facilities for canoeists and other users of the BWCA without spoiling the wilderness setting? [15]

New Legislation

In 1978 a series of bills were presented in Congress to change the uses of the BWCA. Two bills proposed to allow greater use of motorboats. One of these included reintroduction of snowmobiles. Another bill called for creating wilderness status for the BWCA, decreasing logging and motor use, and prohibition of mining and snowmobiles.

These bills were in part responses to surveys which showed that 60% of the visitors to the BWCA were canoeists. The canoeists overwhelmingly resented motorboats on the waters of the area because they detracted from the wilderness experience. Their attitudes regarding snowmobiles were much the same. On the other side, motorboat and snowmobile owners argued forcibly that they had a right to use their conveyances on public land. The arguments became so heated in 1977 that the town of Ely, Minnesota, the leading jumping-off place for the BWCA, looked like an armed camp. [16]

Late in 1978, Congress passed a bill to give wilderness status to the BWCA. It was a modified victory for the environmentalists and canoeists. The new law established 1.08 million acres of wilderness, adding 45,000 acres to the BWCA from the Superior National Forest. It banned logging in the entire area, restricted mining, and reduced motorboat use by one-half. Motor use could continue on peripheral lakes, and snowmobile routes would stay open until 1984. [17]

Some local people in northern Minnesota were violently opposed to the creation of the BWCA as a wilderness. They charged that homes and resorts had been destroyed and livelihoods ruined as a result. The editor of the Western Itasca Review condemned the whole BWCA concept. He claimed the BWCA had proven unworkable and had caused "untold mental anguish, physical suffering, and economic hardship to families which had lived in the area for five generations." [18] Such reactions were expected and clearly illustrate the trade-offs that are inevitably involved in designating wilderness areas.


Wilderness in the East

As the wilderness movement grew so did the concept of smaller wilderness and even wilderness which had once been cut-over or otherwise exploited by man. The commonly held image of wilderness as a vast, untouched area really applied mostly to the West. Wilderness had also been thought of largely as a recreational and mental restorative. But the thinkers and writers who led the wilderness movement broadened the concept so that areas of the East could be considered. Aldo Leopold, writing about the scientific importance of wilderness in 1941 said:

"All wilderness areas, no matter how small or imperfect, have a large value to land-science. The important thing is to realize that recreation is not their only or even their principal utility. In fact, the boundary between recreation and science, like the boundaries between park and forest, animal and plant, tame and wild, exists only in the imperfections of the human mind." [19]

According to Jack Godden, by 1961 Forest Supervisor Gerald S. Wheeler had established six Scenic Areas on the White Mountain National Forest under the Secretary of Agriculture Rules and Regulations. It was Wheeler's way and leadership in protecting quality environments.

The federal courts became involved in the wilderness issue in 1968 when a judge ruled that the Forest Service's judgment about what was wilderness was not the last word. In a suit brought by the Sierra Club and others, the plans of the Forest Service to sell timber from an area near the Gore Range-Eagle's Nest Primitive Area in Colorado were blocked by the court, even though the area in question had an abandoned access road. The court said that while the President had the power under the Wilderness Act to include contiguous areas in wilderness, the Forest Service did not have "absolute discretion" in such matters. From then on, roadless areas contiguous to wilderness, wild, or primitive areas were protected from any use until fully reviewed.

Roadless Area Review and Evaluation

In 1971 the Forest Service began a broad study of roadless areas, many of which were vast in size and really "de facto" wildernesses. Such areas were to be studied by an accelerated program called Roadless Area Review and Evaluation (RARE I, and later RARE II). The report of the RARE I was made public in 1973. A total of 235 areas, termed wilderness study areas, covering 11 million acres was chosen to be studied for possible wilderness classification in the next 10 to 20 years. In the meantime, the areas would be managed to protect their existing character.

Areas not chosen for wilderness study were available for immediate environmental impact studies leading to road building, logging, and other developments. Many millions of acres were eliminated from wilderness study because they had "other resource values which might be lost or diminished if the area were classified as wilderness." Naturally, this raised a clamor from environmentalist and wilderness quarters who would never accept the Forest Service's cherished idea that some areas ought to be managed for production.

By 1977, the Forest Service admitted there were defects in RARE I. The inventory standards were too general, often resulting in inconsistencies in the way areas were selected and overlooking areas from Region to Region. Social and economic factors had not been considered, the public had been little involved, and eastern Forests did not meet the RARE I criteria. [20]

While RARE I was taking place, the organized wilderness advocates, especially The Wilderness Society, were working avidly to obtain broader wilderness legislation aimed at the East. RARE I represented an attempt by the Forest Service to retain control of the wilderness making process, but by not including the eastern National Forests in RARE I the Service had left the door open for the wilderness advocates to shift control of the process to Congress. Behind this was the big question of whether national needs were to be met by creating a vast wilderness system or by putting most of the same lands to multiple use.

In 1977 President Jimmy Carter told the Congress:

"When the Congress passed the Wilderness Act in 1964, it established a landmark of American conservation policy. The National Wilderness Preservation System established by this Act must be expanded promptly, before the most deserving of federal lands are opened to other uses and lost to wilderness forever." [21]

RARE II

Carter seemed to have come down on the side of the wilderness advocates, but the operative words in the message are "the most deserving of federal lands." To determine which these were, the Carter Administration initiated another Roadless Area Review. Called RARE II, it was designed to be an improvement on RARE I by including social and economic factors and massive public involvement. Most importantly, it was to include eastern areas. The ultimate purpose of RARE II was to identify those roadless areas deserving to be recommended to Congress to be made wildness. [22]

In calling for massive public involvement Congress had opened a "can of worms" for the Forest Service. Formerly, the questions of wilderness had been largely a dialogue between the agency and organized wilderness groups. Now local groups and individuals concerned with specific wilderness proposals were asked repeatedly for their reaction. In the West wilderness was, almost by definition, a vast and isolated area seldom visited by anyone. A new definition of wilderness was emerging which allowed RARE II to consider for wilderness much smaller areas near to population centers and perhaps used frequently for recreation and other resource uses. The prospect of restricting such uses excited many local user groups and individuals and generated a series of grass roots protests during the public involvement phase of RARE II.

RARE II in the Eastern Region

In certain sensitive areas of the Eastern Region, the concerns over RARE II reached heroic proportions. The clear intent of wilderness advocates and organizations was to have much more wilderness in the Eastern Region in order to meet the recreational need of the populous East. However, such a goal was not included in the criteria worked out for RARE II by the Washington Office of the Forest Service. Their instructions were for the Region to systematically and scientifically select areas to be studied which would fit the criteria. The criteria spoke of a "wilderness system of high quality" and of protecting endangered species, but they said nothing of making enough wilderness to meet massive recreational needs.

When the RARE II study areas had been selected, they were announced to the public. Initially, there was little reaction from local people except in a few places. The Region was prepared for some local opposition to closing roads and limiting uses in study areas. They also realized that there was a "national audience" for what they were doing and that local concerns were only part of that audience.

Each National Forest was assigned the task of holding what were called workshops where Forest Service spokesmen explained the plan and the public could express its opinion. [23] On some National Forests, the process took on great meaning. Supervisor Mike Hathaway of the White Mountain National Forest recalls there were 20 potential wildernesses that were evaluated on the White Mountain:

"When the New England people sat down and reached consensus, they wanted 77,000 acres of new wilderness added to the existing wilderness. The Wilderness Society wanted more and there were a couple of areas that were omitted. The Wilderness Society appealed the plan over those few areas because they wanted the lumber interests to stay out of those areas". [24]

To publicize RARE II, Gaylord Yost and John Pager of the Regional Office went out on trips to hold workshops in 14 major cities of the Region. The purpose was to familiarize the public with the proposed roadless areas. The Region wanted to know which areas had public support to be made roadless and which did not, and they wanted input from both rural and urban people. Generally, the city workshops went well—"quiet and reasonable" according to Yost. But some of the rural workshops held near or on the Forests became shouting matches. One on the Chippewa National Forest went on for six hours. [25]

An analysis of the public reaction followed the workshops. The data from this became part of the environmental impact statements prepared for each Forest. These statements were then transmitted to a Forest Service public reaction clearing house center in Salt Lake City, Utah. The center was programmed to process the input from all over the nation and prepare a national environmental impact statement. This was broken down for each Region and Forest. [26]

In early October of 1977, Regional Forester Steve Yurich announced that he had submitted a list of 117 areas totaling 914,000 acres on the 14 National Forests of the Eastern Region for consideration for wilderness designation or available for other resource management. Yurich described the process of obtaining public reaction to the proposed designations. There had been 35 workshops held in the Region, and more than 4,000 suggestions had been received from individuals and groups. The public had been asked to nominate areas for inclusion or deletion from the list, and the nominations received had been carefully considered.

The public had also been asked to suggest the criteria to be used in considering which areas should be designated as wilderness or for other uses. Based on this and the basic criteria for eastern National Forest wilderness developed by the Forest Service, the selections were made. The criteria recognized special conditions in the eastern National Forests including limited evidence of timber harvesting and planting. Yurich made it clear that RARE II and wilderness designation were integral parts of the overall resource planning and management process and would be up-dated regularly. Yurich's statement was distributed by information officers throughout the Region and appeared in many local newspapers. Information officers on each National Forest added information on the areas in their Forests which were included on the list. [27]

Meanwhile, during 1976 and 1977 the Eastern Regional Office people engaged in RARE II worked on applying the Chiefs criteria to the areas to determine economic and social impacts of the proposed roadless areas. Contracts were let to involve sociologists and economists in this process. Finally, in 1978, the Regional Forester called all Forest Supervisors to his office and conferred with them. They reviewed all of the available information and decided whether to recommend each area for wilderness, non-wilderness, or further planning.

The recommendations of the Regional Foresters went to the Chief, who put the national package together and gave it to the Secretary of Agriculture. The Secretary made a few changes based on political pressures, and then presented it to the President in 1979. President Jimmy Carter sent the package to Congress. After several months of inaction, the political pot started to boil and Congressional leaders decided to handle the matter state by state. Where there was little local and state opposition, the wildernesses were designated. Sometimes, the Congress, acting on the desires of state delegations, did some strange things, even to the point of accepting the whole list as wilderness, whether areas were recommended for wilderness, nonwilderness, or further planning.

National Forests in the following states had bills passed creating wildernesses: New Hampshire, Vermont, Indiana, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Missouri and West Virginia. At the time of this writing, a bill is pending for Michigan. There were no bills for Illinois or Minnesota, but there may be in the future. Neither New York nor Ohio have areas eligible for wilderness consideration. [28]

The Anti-RARE II Reaction

There was an immediate reaction when public announcement was made of the wildernesses recommended by RARE II. The Regional Office has a thick file of newspaper clippings from all over the Region heralding the event. Most of the newspapers simply reported the proposal to designate wildernesses in their area, but some editorialized against wilderness. One such editorial appeared in the Western Itasca Review in Minnesota. In what must have been the boldest print available, the editor stated "THE WILDERNESS PROPONENTS HAVE STRUCK AGAIN—WE ARE THE TARGET." He explained that the Forest Service had included two areas in the Chippewa National Forest in the list to be studied for inclusion in the Wilderness System. "We protest vehemently," the editor wrote. He presented a scenario of horror stories about how homes and resorts in the BWCA would be bulldozed and burned. In an open letter addressed to Chippewa Forest Supervisor Jim Brewer, the editor asserted:

"Nothing can be done here with a wilderness designation that cannot be done without it. But we would lose our lands, our homes, our livelihoods . . . . Who knows why the USDA feels that Northern Minnesota must be all wilderness, sacrificed at the whim of some bureaucrat. [29]

In Vermont, nearly 2,000 people attended a public information meeting in Rutland to protest the Forest Service proposal for six new roadless areas in the Green Mountain National Forest. Most of those attending complained that such a small state as Vermont already had enough designated wilderness in the Lye Brook and Bristol Cliffs Wildernesses. They said that more wildernesses would unnecessarily limit already limited recreation and would remove timber management. Others argued that ending timber harvesting in wilderness areas would undermine tax bases in adjoining towns. The public information session, which was presented by foresters of the Green Mountain National Forest, began in mid-afternoon and went on for six hours with the foresters fielding questions from disgruntled Vermonters. [30]

Various environmentalists groups were so opposed to the RARE II process that they challenged it in court. A crucial case was Southern Appalachian Council, Inc. v. Bergland in the U.S. District Court in the Western District of North Carolina. The Court ruled that designations of wilderness study areas in National Forest east of the 100th meridian by the RARE II process violated the Wilderness Act of 1975 because that power was now reserved to Congress. [31]

The End of RARE II in the East

Soon after the Southern Appalachian Case, the Regional Foresters received a message from Deputy Chief Raymond M. Housley, "We have decided to change procedure for handling areas allocated to further planning by RARE II east of the 100th meridian." Any further planning for wilderness would have to be done, as part of the National Forest Management Act. If it was done, one of two broad decisions would have to be made: either the area would be managed for multiple use, or it would be recommended to Congress for designation as a wilderness study area. [32]

It was now back to the drawing board for the whole wilderness study process. This time it was to be built into the forest plans. Using the same criteria as for RARE II, forest planners were to include areas suitable for wilderness study in one of the planning goals of the forest plans. Areas suitable for wilderness were to be recommended to Congress for wilderness designation. Areas so nominated would be managed to protect their wilderness character under the forest plans until final disposition by Congress. It would be up to Congress when to consider them.

Did RARE II Fail?

RARE II may have fallen short of identifying as many areas for wilderness designation as it should have. There may have been some lack of sympathy for the process on the part of some management teams at the Forest and Region levels. Only time will tell whether the proper prescriptions were selected. Unfortunately, if an area which really should have been selected for wilderness study was passed over by RARE II, the dynamics of the current situation will make it much more difficult for such an area to be designated wilderness in the future.

The reasons for the reluctance of National Forest management teams to recommend wilderness areas revolve around three considerations: First, local opposition to wilderness as expressed in reaction to RARE II or in the public involvement in the forest plan, may have indicated that the larger public simply did not want wilderness. Second, the Forest managers may have believed that they would have too few management options in wildernesses. Third, the wilderness designation is permanent. As a practical matter, it would be next to impossible to get a wilderness declassified by Congress.

There is also the possibility that some wildernesses proposed by RARE II but not yet designated wilderness by Congress will be given that status in the future. In the Shawnee National Forest Plan there are four such areas, carry-overs from RARE II which are recommended to Congress for wilderness designation. [33] In the same way, many of the National Forest plans contain recommendations for wildernesses which originated with the work done by RARE II. If some of these areas are someday taken into the System, RARE II will not have been wasted. But even if many areas are never acted upon, the Eastern Region now has a far better picture of the potential for wilderness in its National Forests as a result of RARE II.

Another Route to Wilderness?

One of the management unit designations of the forest plans is to provide "semi-primitive, non-motorized" (SPNM) areas for recreation. Such areas come close to being wilderness, but they are not synonymous. The intent of SPNM is active management of a different recreation experience as an alternative to wilderness. Some National Forest management teams have purposely avoided SPNM out of fear that the existence of such areas will tempt someone to ask Congress to designate them as wilderness. Other National Forests have used the semi-primitive, non-motorized designation freely. The White Mountain National Forest has about 400,000 acres of it. This is because the public wants that kind of use on the White Mountain, and the Supervisor agrees with them. [34]

If the National Forest management wants to do so, semi-primitive, non-motorized recreation areas can be used as "wilderness-in-waiting". In the meantime, they can be managed so as to maintain their wilderness qualities. This has the advantage of being a potential wilderness which the Forest Service controls.

Managing Recommended Wilderness

The forest plans provide prescriptions for managing all types of areas, including recommended wilderness. Basically; the prescription for recommended wilderness provides management which will not damage the wilderness qualities. It is essentially the same management that semi-primitive, non-motorized recreation areas will receive. Motorized vehicle use is not allowed. However, some recommended wilderness areas are highly attractive to ORV users as they are to other recreationists. The administrative problems of closing such areas to users who have traditionally used them are, to say the least, challenging. The problems involve not only enforcement but putting the word out to all users and defining and marking the areas where certain uses are no longer permitted. [35]


Legislating Wilderness in East

While the RARE II process was running its course, the wilderness advocate groups in the East attempted to extend the definition of wilderness so that areas that had once been farmed or cut over and abandoned by man could be included. Originally, the Forest Service resisted such a liberal definition. Back in 1967, Chief Edward P. Cliff warned a Sierra Club gathering not to push the definition of wilderness to the extent of accepting man-made intrusions or defects of other kinds "simply for the sake of adding acreage. [36]

The question of pushing the definition of wilderness went to the heart of the matter in the Eastern Region. Already there was the million-acre BWCA and three other wild areas, including the 5,400 acre Great Gulf area of the White Mountain National Forest. But the Eastern Region was determined that other less pristine areas not be considered de facto wildernesses if they had once been used by man before being purchased by the Forest Service. This would include most of the land in the Eastern Region.

Wilderness advocates took a different view. They argued that because of the fertile soil, heavy rainfall and moderate growing seasons, eastern forests could reasonably be expected to regenerate in time and regain the scenic beauty of wilderness. [37] Then, in the early 1970's support came from a seemingly unexpected quarter; eastern timber interests proposed that certain cut-over areas be classified as wilderness and that these wilderness areas be opened for cutting. This somewhat contradictory proposal stemmed from a "lumber shortage" which was forcing the timber companies to look for new acres to harvest. The proposal was based on the theory that wilderness could regenerate itself if left alone over the years. Even areas subsequently cut-over by the timber companies would eventually return to wilderness. Both the Forest Service and wilderness advocates strongly resisted the proposal, but neither could deny the loggers' point that there really were no pristine areas left anywhere. Every area in the country had been touched in some way by man. Once the issue was raised, the attention of wilderness advocates turned to the cut-over forests of the East and Congress began considering an Eastern Wilderness bill. [38]

The Wilderness Act of 1975

It is an indication of the growing strength of the wilderness movement that the Congress passed the Wilderness Act of 1975. The Act applied only to areas east of the 100th Meridian, and it spoke of the urgent need to protect wildernesses in the East which were threatened by "the pressures of a growing and more mobile population [and] large scale economic growth, and development." The Act designated 16 eastern National Forest wilderness areas containing 207,000 acres of land. It also named an additional 17 areas as potential wilderness to be studied and reported on by 1980. The areas under study were to be treated as wilderness until the study was completed. [39]

Significantly, the Act did not attempt to define wilderness. Nor did it distinguish between eastern and western wilderness except to recognize the threat to eastern wilderness and wilderness recreation in the East. It can be assumed, however, that by mandating so many eastern wildernesses, Congress had accepted the theory of regenerative wilderness. [40]

Before passage of the Act of 1975, only four wildernesses existed in the Eastern Region. The Wilderness Act of 1975 specifically designated six new areas in the Region:

The Otter Creek Wilderness. This is a 20,000 acre area of the Monongahela National Forest of hardwood and hemlock forests in a bowl shaped basin drained by Otter Creek. The area is so remote that it is one of the few remaining West Virginia mountain areas where the black bear still breeds. Between 1905 to 1915 the area was cut-over by loggers, but all that remains of man's imprint are a few trails and a railroad bed which has been converted to a hiking trail. [41]

The Rainbow Lake Wilderness. This Wilderness is located on the Chequamegon National Forest. [42]

The Bristol Cliffs and Lye Brook Wildernesses. A 1969 Multiple Use Plan on the Green Mountain National Forest led to the designation of these two Wildernesses. The Bristol Cliffs Area has 6,000 acres and Lye Brook has 14,000 acres.

The Presidential Range-Dry River Wilderness. This Wilderness is in the White Mountain National Forest.

The Dolly Sods Wilderness. This area is located in the Monongahela National Forest.

The Act of 1975 also designated five Wilderness Study Areas in the Eastern Region. In 1978, Congress established three more Wildernesses. The Charles C. Deam Wilderness in the Hoosier National Forest consists of 12,953 acres commemorating a famed Indiana botanist who later became the first State Forester. [43] In the Nicolet National Forest there are two Wilderness Areas: Blackjack Springs, with 5,886 acres has a variety of plant and animal life and several springs; and Whisker Lake Wilderness, with 7,428 acres contains several lakes scattered within it. Common uses of the two areas are hiking, backpacking, fishing, hunting, and cross-country skiing. [44]

Attitudes Toward the Wilderness System in the East

The passage of the Wilderness Act of 1975 brought the Eastern Region squarely into the National Wilderness Preservation System. Jay H. Cravens, Regional Forester at the time, took pride in, what had been done. Cravens said later, "I am pleased that we helped identify and evolve the . . . System, but", he quickly added, "I will continue to raise the question of how much do we need and what can we better achieve for the greatest number in the long run through multiple use management?" [45]

Cravens, like many Forest Service leaders, believed devoutly that the best way to preserve forests was to manage them effectively. To professional foresters like Cravens, an over-crowded natural forest where brush and under story grow unchecked, with dead trees lying about, and where fire is a constant danger, is an anathema. He coined the phrase—"the greatest enemy of the forest is neglect." This view is not shared by all professionals, but it is quite commonly held, especially in Europe where forests are more like parks than natural environment. Foresters like Cravens believe that carefully planned and executed timber harvests can not only improve the health and appearance of a forest but will benefit the public now and in the future. [46] Consequently, while recognizing the value of wilderness, foresters like Cravens believe that there can easily be too much of it. They look upon the National Forest System as something which must be managed in the general public interest. To make as many areas as possible into wilderness would be in the interest of only a small segment of the public, and would prevent the use of many of the resources. Belief in the scientific value of multiple use runs so deep in the Forest Service that few people rise to high positions who do not adhere to the concept. Cravens went on to the Washington Office to become Associate Deputy Chief for National Forest System Resources and Acting Chief of the Forest Service before retiring in 1976 to become a Professor at the University of Wisconsin—Stevens Point. [47]

The thinking of foresters and supervisors like Cravens has been modified in recent years. The new concept is to emphasize that wilderness and multiple use are not mutually exclusive. In fact, it is common to say that wilderness is multiple use. Along with this goes the imperative that wilderness must be managed to insure multiple use. The types of multiple use referred to in this context are not the ones which usually spring to mind. There will be no harvesting of timber, no surface mining, and no road building in wildernesses. But there are many types of recreational and other uses which may be taking place. In this way, the Forest Service continues its role of actively managing its wilderness lands. Some wilderness advocates may have dreamed of wildernesses which were left completely alone and not managed by anyone, but on the National Forests that would be unthinkable. The Forest Service considers its mission to be managing all of its lands in the public interest.


Summary

There have been two approaches, Forest Service and Congressional, to the selection and designation of wildernesses in the Eastern Region. The Forest Service approach, characterized by RARE II and the forest planning process, was systematic and scientific. The legislative approach allowed Congress to select and designate wilderness through political processes. The Forest Service aimed at a high quality wilderness system which would fit into the general National Forest management picture. The legislative approach had as its goal a wilderness system sufficient to meet the recreation needs of the populous northeast. One way was qualitative and the other quantitative; both wanted to protect and preserve wilderness.

The solution to the two approaches was a compromise in which wilderness can be designated by the political processes if there is enough public support to prevail in Congress. Otherwise, the Forest Service will use the same systematic way of selecting and recommending wilderness as in the past.

When Congress became involved in the wilderness selection process, the Forest Service had no choice but to accept the situation. However, this may not be the best way to carry on the process. There may be many areas in the National Forests of the Eastern Region which would benefit more from the professional management of the Forest Service than from prescriptions dictated by Congress, political pressures, and wilderness organizations. One has only to look at the history of early wilderness preservation to know that the Forest Service led the way and can be trusted in this matter. In fact, there would be no wilderness to consider in the Eastern Region if it had not been for the return of the forests achieved by the Forest Service, through protection and management.

Reference Notes

1. Dennis Roth, "The National Forests and the Campaign for Wilderness Legislation", Journal of Forest History XXVIII (July 1984), pp. 112-114.

2. Ibid., p. 114.

3. Ibid.

4. Ibid., pp. 116-117.

5. Michael Frome, The Forest Service (Boulder: Westview Press, 1984, 2nd, ed.), p. 7.

6. Dennis Roth, "Campaign for Wilderness," p. 120.

7. The Wilderness Act, 78 Stat. 890, Section 2 (c).

8. Dennis Roth, "Campaign for Wilderness," pp. 124-125.

9. Herbert E. Wright, Jr., "The Boundary Waters at Stake", The Living Wilderness 38, 125 (Spring, 1974), 21-33.

10. Jay H. Cravens to David E. Conrad, 1987.

11. H.E. Wright, Jr., "The Boundary Waters at Stake," 22.

12. Ibid.

13. Ibid., p. 23.

14. Ibid.

15. F.H. Kaufert, "Controversy In Canoeland," American Forests 70 (October 1964), 24-27, 78-82.

16. National Parks and Conservation Magazine, 52, No. 8 (August 1978), 23-25, and 29.

17. National Parks and Conservation Magazine, 52, No. 12 (December 1978), 21, 24, and 26.

18. Western Itasca Review, September 8, 1977.

19. Aldo Leopold, "Wilderness as a Land Laboratory," Living Wilderness 6 (July 1941), p. 3.

20. Ironwood Daily Globe, October 19, 1982.

21. President's Environmental Message, 1977, as quoted by Michael Frome, The Forest Service, p. 188.

22. Michael Frome, The Forest Service, p. 188.

23. Gaylord Yost, Interview, December 17, 1986.

24. Michael Hathaway, Interview.

25. Gaylord Yost, Interview.

26. Ibid.

27. The Gallatin Democrat (Shawneetown, Illinois), October 3, 1977.

28. Gaylord Yost, Interview.

29. Western Itasca Review, December 1, 1977.

30. Rutland Daily Herald, September 8, 1977.

31. 15 ERC 2051.

32. Raymond M. Housley, Jr., Deputy Chief to Regional Foresters, Regions 8 & 9, August 27, 1981, Regional Office Files.

33. Shawnee National Forest, Land and Resource Management Plan, IV-2.

34. Gaylord Yost, Interview.

35. Craig Beardsley, Interview, June 4, 1987.

36. Michael Frome, The Forest Service, pp. 186-187.

37. Ibid., p. 187.

38. Dennis Roth, The Wilderness Movement, pp. 9-10.

39. National Wilderness Preservation System Act, 88 Stat. 2096.

40. William E. Shands and Robert C. Healy, The Lands Nobody Wanted, p. 46.

41. Michael Frome, The Forest Service, p. 188.

42. "Chequamegon: The Making. . . ," p. 10.

43. National Wilderness Preservation System Act, 88 Stat. 2096.

44. "Wilderness Important to Nicolet," Rhinelander Daily News, July 29, 1983, p. 14.

45. Jay H. Cravens to David E. Conrad, 1987.

46. Ibid.

47. Ibid.



<<< Previous <<< Contents>>> Next >>>

HOME  :  ABOUT US  :  FRIENDS & SUPPORTERS   :  RESEARCH CENTER   :  PUBLICATIONS
EDUCATION  :   FELLOWSHIPS & AWARDS  :   EVENTS & PROJECTS  :  CONTACT US  :  DONATE
© 2014 FOREST HISTORY SOCIETY
Updated: 11/24/2008