Magic Wilderness

Here we go. On Dec. 23rd Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar issued a “secretarial order” to designate 245 million acres of BLM land as “wilderness” [here]. Three weeks later the BLM proudly announced a new 11,000 acre “wilderness in Mendocino County, CA.

BLM Finalizes Elkhorn Ridge Wilderness Designation

BLM News Release No. CA-N-11-19, January 13, 2011 [here]

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced today that the Elkhorn Ridge Potential Wilderness Area in Mendocino County, California, has officially been added to the National Wilderness Preservation System.

“We are excited that this unique and beautiful area will now receive permanent protection as wilderness,” said Lynda Roush, manager of the BLM Arcata Field Office. “This designation is the result of hard work by many local partners and the strong support of Congressman Mike Thompson.”

Congressman Thompson added, “The official designation for Elkhorn Ridge makes certain this very special place will be enjoyed by future generations. The area is rich in wildlife and aquatic species, diverse forestland, chaparral habitat and many areas of undisturbed ancient forest. I am please the area is permanently protected.”

Congressman Thompson is very wrong. The designation is an invitation to catastrophic holocaust. The Elkhorn Ridge area is now dedicated to immolation and incineration. Whatever resource values are there now will be destroyed within a few years by unfought wildfire.

Ken “Mr. Tamper” Salazar promised to “restore balance and clarity to the management of public lands by establishing common-sense policy.” What he accomplished is the exact opposite.

More from the news release:

The area was designated as a potential wilderness area by the 2006 Northern California Coastal Wild Heritage Wilderness Act. This interim designation provided time for the BLM to assess and, if necessary, restore 1,565 acres of private lands acquired for public ownership shortly before the Act’s passage. The Act required that the area be designated as wilderness once conditions were compatible with the Wilderness Act, or no later than five years after the Act’s passage.

The BLM determined no additional restoration of the Elkhorn Ridge area was necessary as the area had naturally rehabilitated itself over the five years. Consequently, a publication in today’s Federal Register announces that the interim designation has been lifted and the area is now designated wilderness.

According to the Wilderness Act of 1964 (Public Law 88-577), wilderness is “an area where the earth and [its] community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain. An area of wilderness is further defined to mean in this Act an area of undeveloped Federal land retaining its primeval character and influence, without permanent improvements or human habitation, which is protected and managed so as to preserve its natural conditions and which… generally appears to have been affected primarily by the forces of nature, with the imprint of man’s work substantially unnoticeable.”

The Elkhorn Ridge area has been occupied and resided in by human beings for 10,000+ years. The imprint of that heritage is profound. The area is laced with human trails of great antiquity. Human beings established an anthropogenic mosaic there of human-induced prairies, acorn orchards, hazel copses, and other subsistence crop complexes. There are sacred sites of vintage stretching back many thousands of years.

All that is alleged by the BLM to have disappeared after five years of “natural rehabilitation”. What a crock! What a travesty!

Destroying heritage as well as vegetation, wildlife habitat, clean air, clean water, and other resource values by catastrophic fire is NOT the mission of the BLM. To do so behind a pack of transparent lies is even more egregious.

20 Jan 2011, 9:21am
by bear bait

In a damages suit from fire, it would be interesting to have the concept of a landscape “naturally rehabilitated” by itself after 5 years.

If the BLM is saying that Federal Lands can “naturally rehabilitate” and be candidate for Big W Wilderness after a mere 5 years of no human activity, it would follow that a lawsuit pressed by the US Attorney’s Office for trespass damage from fire (from private land onto public land) could be challenged in that within 5 years (or possibly less if ongoing natural rehabilitation was progressing quicker in areas with more rainfall) whatever damages the fire inflicted would be “naturally” healed!

No assessment for damage would be valid in light of the Federal acceptance of rapid “natural rehabilitation” in the BLM’s treatment of the Mendocino County Elkhorn Ridge private lands that had been under Euro-American (non-indigenous) human management for profit for a century and more.

A fair-minded and equitable Federal District Court Judge, noting the precedent set by the BLM in the Ekhorn Ridge deal, should grant any and all defendants the same time frame the BLM applied and the same resulting conditions of “natural rehab”, no matter what the actual conditions. The species census, distribution census, age census, etc. of the private lands that became Wilderness didn’t matter to the BLM one whit. How can they possibly matter in the case of fire trespass or any other damage litigation to public lands?

Goodbye to NEPA lawsuits. Whatever damage a proposed project might prospectively cause, in 5 years or less it will be naturally rehabilitated anyway.

Five years for “natural rehabilitation” is a concept now validated by executive order and Congress, and by direction of the Dept. of Interior. I cannot see how the USDA-USFS can hide behind another set of parameters of land classification that denies that land once extensively used and managed by humans can transition to Wilderness in five years by the process of “natural rehabilitation”.

Sounds like a brush patch to me. By WTF would I know? No eco-obsessive I, but the very idea that any piece of land is 5 years from Wilderness qualification through the process of “natural rehabilitation” should bring a new set of expert witnesses to court for damages assessment and estimates. It also means that any land is 5 years from Wilderness, a question that needs Congressional attention.

Like, leave it alone for 5 years and it is Wilderness, Dude!!!!

What does that do to the Oregon Forest Practices Act? And watershed issues? If natural rehabilitation is so swift and sure that any piece land is suitable for Wilderness in 5 years or less, how can there ever be ANY lasting (i.e. significant) damage to a watershed from any disturbance? Let’s go fishing!!! We have a huge can of worms!!!

Reply: Exact-a-mundo, mon ami. The newspeak double-talkers have lied themselves into a corner.

20 Jan 2011, 3:52pm
by Foo Furb

I think the next step is to use FOIA powers to find out who, exactly, is responsible for this fiasco. What, when, why. and how, too.

Measures of existing (five years ago) and current conditions? Advocacy group pressures? “Scientific” assessments? Legal suits? Legal precedence?

Sounds like they’ve painted themselves into a corner, all right, and left the can of worms in the frig, right next to the fishing poles.

Who’s going to pick this up and run with it? What California Congress people have actively opposed the BLM Christmas decree? Do they need expert testimony from professional resource managers or forest scientists?




web site

leave a comment

  • Colloquia

  • Commentary and News

  • Contact

  • Follow me on Twitter

  • Categories

  • Archives

  • Recent Posts

  • Recent Comments

  • Meta