Salida Mountain Mail: Monday, May 14, 2012
Udall clarifies wilderness, monument designations Cailey McDermott, Mail Staff Writer
When Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) initiated a community-driven process in February to designate a national monument and wilderness area in Browns Canyon, residents began to question the meaning of the designation.
Udall told The Mountain Mail Wednesday, “A wilderness designation means the area will be managed as a quiet haven for recreation and wildlife.
“Wilderness provides the strongest level of protection available to federal lands to ensure that areas remain essentially natural for future generations to enjoy.”
The Wilderness Act, written by The Wilderness Society and enacted in 1964, defines wilderness as a place where the earth is “untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.”
Motorized vehicles and all forms of mechanical transport are prohibited in designated wilderness areas.
Permanent and temporary roads are also prohibited.
About 8,000 acres on the west side of the Arkansas River has been managed as the Browns Canyon Wilderness Study Area since 1980.
Udall said there is no time limit set for a wilderness study area.
“The Bureau of Land Management is required to manage study areas to protect their wilderness characteristics until Congress acts to designate them wilderness or releases them for other nonwilderness uses,” he said.
Since July 2000, the National Wilderness Preservation System created by the Wilderness Act has encompassed 104.7 million acres, or 4.4 percent of all land in the United States.
Of the acreage, 44 million acres are in national parks, 34.7 million acres are in national forests, 20.7 million acres are in national wildlife refuges, and 5.2 million acres are western heritage land of the Bureau of Land Management.
Udall said, “A national monument is a flexible designation that protects the land and encourages the public to recreate and view unique natural and historic sites in the area but protects it from development and large-scale resource extraction.”
Roads and motorized use are permitted in national monuments.
Since Congress passed the Antiquities Act of 1906, more than 100 national monuments have been designated.
According to the Antiquities Act handbook, collectively, the country’s national monuments receive about 50 million visitors annually.