“The idea of wilderness needs no defense, it only needs more defenders,” as Edward Abbey put it eloquently.
Abbey would be horrified if he knew that a bill heavily pushed by the GOP, and supported by the National Rifle Association, seeks to destroy the 1964 Wilderness Act and all the protections provided by the National Wilderness Preservation System.
On April 17, 2012, the U.S. House of Representatives passed HR 4089, the Sportsmen’s Heritage Act, supposedly to protect and enhance opportunities for recreational hunting, fishing and shooting. It was approved in the House 276 to 146, and almost every Republican voted for it.
The bill is deceptive. Instead of protecting the wilderness, this Act would essentially eviscerate the 1964 Wilderness Act and gut protections for every wilderness in America’s 110-million-acre National Wilderness Preservation System. It would annihilate large swathes of wilderness through road, dam and building construction, as well as extensive habitat modifications. This is a destructive piece of legislation, which needs to go away.
Thankfully, the bill failed in the Senate on November 27, but there is still a chance that it could return.
I love to go backpacking in the wilderness, where I can get away from civilization and simply be in the moment. As the Wilderness Act states, “For this purpose there is established Wilderness Areas where the Earth and its community of life are untrammeled,” and “where the land retains its primeval character and influence.”
Having access to solitude in nature is vital for the well being of the United States, not to mention the souls of its citizens.
It’s also important that humans are visitors to the wilderness, yet do not remain. The point is to keep the wilderness “without permanent improvements or human habitation,” but the Sportsmen’s Heritage Act would make exactly those changes.
As The Christian Science Monitor explains:
First, H.R. 4089 elevates hunting, fishing, shooting, and wildlife management above wilderness protection within designated wilderness areas. Visitors or wildlife managers could drive motor vehicles and build roads, cabins, dams, hunting blinds, aircraft landing strips, and much more in wildernesses if any of these activities could be rationalized as facilitating opportunities for hunting, fishing, shooting, or managing fish and wildlife.
The only limitation in H.R. 4089 on motor vehicles or development is that the activity must be related to hunting, fishing, shooting, or wildlife management, though that need not be its only or even primary use. In reality, almost any recreational or management activity could be shoehorned into one of these exceptions and thereby exempted from Wilderness Act safeguards.
Perhaps even more troubling, H.R. 4089 would waive protections imposed by the Wilderness Act for anything undertaken in the name of wildlife management or for providing recreational opportunities related to wildlife. This would allow endless manipulations of wildlife and habitat.
This is a dangerous bill, which must not be allowed to pass. If you agree, please sign our petition demanding that the U.S. Senate do nothing to advance HR 4089, the so-called Sportsmenís Heritage Act and instead protect our grand wilderness legacy for future generations.
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