Wilderness News

May 21, 2019 This summer, in the gorgeous and remote South San Juan and Weminuche wilderness areas, located on the San Juan and Rio Grande National Forests in southern Colorado, the sun-baked pine, waving wildflowers, and trills of birds will be interrupted by the sounds of civilization, in the form of motors and grinding chains.  The use of chainsaws has temporariliy been allowed for the summer of 2019 to clear dead and down trees obstructing trails.  We are all for open trails, and the South San Juan and Weminuche in the summer are some of our favorite places to be.  But there is a reason that motorized and mechanized tools are specifically prohibited in the Wildernss Act.  

Of course, we highly value wilderness for the recreation opportunities it provides.  We also value wilderness for the wildness it provides.  When we challenge ourselves to remove our anthropocentric-colored glasses, we see that biocentric values must also be protected.  So it has always been in the Wilderness Act, protection and elevation of recreation and of wildness together.  It is our opinion that anything that weighs too heavily to one side or the other is not in keeping with the Wilderness Act, and should not be pursued.

As a trail crew veteran myself, I must also tout the beauty of the crosscut saw.  The smell of WD40 on a summer morning will still take me back to my tent in the Selway Bitterroot Wilderness, where I hung my freshly oiled saw on a tree branch outside my zippered door.  Hung just so - to keep it's shape, to protect the teeth from the dirt, and as a point of pride.  Using a crosscut saw taught me about teamwork in a way that words never had, it taught me about the pace of life in a way that history lessons never had, and it connected me to the forest in a way that chainsaws never had.  In an increasingly high-paced, individual world, it's experiences like these that need to be protected.  Check out the US Forest Service's Wilderness Advisory Group (WAG) spring 2019 newsletter WAG Tales to hear more stories about the use of traditional tools in the field.

We understand that the pine beetle epidemic, combined with the era of the megafire, has created many issues across the west.  We encourage managers and partners to approach this as an opportunity to work together and rise to the occassion rather than weaken the wildenress mandate and cripple the ecological processes within wilderness.  The SWS Community of Practice will join you.  We will recruit as many people as possible, and lead the charge, crosscuts in hand, to allow recreation and wildness to continue to exist together.  

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The Society for Wilderness Stewardship is a non-profit, charitable organization under the 501 (c)(3) section of the Internal Revenue Code.