A Hard Look at the FS TMP 042711
The Forest Service has been grooming the wilderness for many years now. Policy at Headquarters in Washington D.C. is what guides practice at the National Forest level. It effects all travel in all national forests; see all the states involved HERE.
The reasons for this nationwide change in public land use is contained in this quote from the
USFS travel management page
In the 21st century, the nation’s forests and grasslands face four threats. Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth names them as: (a) fire and fuels, (b) invasive species, (c) loss of open space, and (d) unmanaged recreation.
The Forest Service has created policies and methodologies to accomplish the control of those four threats, and the travel management plan is intended to control the last.
There are very good reasons for controlling travel in the forest. Increased traffic from off highway vehicles and an increased population generally have resulted in more people going farther into the woods. Unplanned roads cause erosion; people on OHV with cell phones can increase the popularity of a site overnight. People bring in trash, pets and invasive species. They drive through rivers and creeks and break the native soil leading to erosion.
We don’t have to blame “environmentalists” though the “muirish” attitude certainly has been tough on the truly rural. Instead we can point to other urbanites, who travel on weekends to visit the “wild lands” and shed civilization. There are simply too many people with too many powerful off road machines, and they are destroying the forests and grasslands.
Even we have to admit there are more people in the woods, and their impact is considerable.
But what about those who use the woods responsibility, to get firewood, visit old mines, camp in favorite haunts? Times change, they always have.
The woods don’t belong just to locals, they belong to Americans all over the country. The logic is the FS protects our woods for people in Alaska, and the woods in Alaska for us. This approach prevents the FS from being answerable to any of us.
Has the FS gone too far? It seems unlikely that case will be successfully made, since there is good evidence for the damage to rare sites and rare critters from human visitation. Certainly the current situation pleases those who believe the forest is “pristine” and should only be travelled on foot or mountain bike, but likely their pleasure won’t last too long. As the number of hikers increases there will be new restrictions even on foot paths.
Other than the people of Alaska, who is the FS saving our forest for, other than timber companies? The unborn, we must suppose.
It seems unlikely that the many current efforts to reverse the TMP will make much change. We’ve lost the right to use our public lands, which are protected from us for someone, some day.