I was the transportation planner on the North Zone Planning Team for the newly formed Idaho Panhandle National Forest in1973. A discussion was being held on the topic of wilderness areas and what we, as a planning team, should consider in developing management strategies for the forest. At some point, the planning team leader asked the question as to how we as individual members of the team would define wilderness. One person thought wilderness was a place where the natural wildland environment would be protected for perpetuity. Another though that wilderness was a necessity to provide a refuge for solitude seekers. Another said it was an area untrammeled by man where nature managed the resources. Finally, a young woman on the team from Portland, Oregon’s inner city was asked for her definition of wilderness and she responded, “Wilderness for me is downtown Sandpoint, Idaho, on a Saturday night.”
The rest of the team chuckled but I have often thought of that moment and how forest managers ignore the fact that a large part of the population of the United States would probably define wilderness in a similar manner.
We need wild area for many reasons but the management restrictions placed on designated wilderness areas severely limit who gets to use these public lands and how they area able to be protected. Designate areas within the national forest to be managed as wildlands but also recognize that those lands are there for the use of the public at large and not just those who truly believe that their wants and desires are superior to all other users.
RICHARD F. CREED