Sunday, October 14, 2007

I'm all for the Wild Sky Wilderness, but...
Conservationists are on the verge of celebrating a much awaited for new wilderness addition in the state of Washington, the Wild Sky. And while this new designation will permanently protect over 100,000 acres of ridge, forest, lake, meadow and peak in the Central Cascades, this area wasn't really under much threat to begin with.
Now don't get me wrong; I wholeheartedly support the Wild Sky Wilderness. It's just that I believe we used up a lot of political capital on an area that was under little threat. It would have made much more sense to round up the green troops to add the Dark Divide, Kettle Crest, Chelan Sawtooth Crest, or Mad River Country to our wilderness inventory instead-places that are truly under threat-particularly from the destruction of motorized recreation.
Wild Sky was fairly easy to protect. OK except for the Richard Pombo episode; but he's history now. Adding Mad River or Dark Divide has not been and will not be easy-and it appears that groups that once rallied for their protection have gone into retreat. This will only embolden the motorheads and we'll never be able to protect these jewels, lands that are far more valuable for passive recreation and far more ecologically-important than the Wild Sky which contains a lot of inaccessible rugged ridge.
I like to compare the Wild Sky Wilderness campaign to President Bush's War on Terror. From the Axis of Evil, he chose to go to war with Iraq believing it would be a slam dunk victory. It wasn't (like Wild Sky with the Pombo hold-up). Bush has spent almost all of his political capital on Iraq, while Iran remains our real threat. Of course going to war with Iran would not have been an easy campaign at all-and one that would have been even harder to gather support from the American people than Iraq. Iraq is now a mess and Iran is a bigger threat than ever. While Wild Sky will turn out just fine, the Dark Divide and Mad River are under more threats from environmental destruction than ever. I hope the conservation movement didn't expend all of their political capital with Wild Sky sacrificing these much more important-but harder to protect areas.
Of course in a perfect green world all of these areas could have been made wilderness. But like fighting our enemies, we must also pick our environmental battles wisely-or lest we'll be spread too thin-rendered ineffective-and lose too much precious and irreplaceable wild country. Most of Wild Sky would have remained pretty wild without wilderness designation. The fragile landscapes of the Dark Divide, Chelan Sawtooth, and Mad River Country are under assault right now, being torn asunder by legions of motorcyclists. Do we have the will to stop them?

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