Interview of George Wuerthner ― Resistance Radio

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Hi, I’m Derrick Jensen and this is Resistance Radio on the Progressive Radio Network. My guest today is George Wuerthner. He is the former Ecological Projects Director for the Foundation for Deep Ecology. He is an ecologist and wildlands activist. He has published 38 books on environmental issues and natural history including such environmentally focused books as Welfare Ranching, Wildfire, Thrillcraft, Energy and most recently Protecting the Wild. Today we talk about the erosion of wilderness protections.

Although we haven’t talked in six months, so I’m wondering if your 38 books is up to 43 or 47 by now.

GW: No, it’s not. I’ve been mostly focusing on writing editorials and essays.

DJ: Okay, so the world goes six months without a book by you. We should stop the presses.

GW: Right, right.

DJ: I’m saying that because your work is so fantastic and I love that you are so hard-working.

GW: Thank you.

DJ: So today I want to talk about something that most people have not probably heard about, which is that last December 13, the US House Natural Resources Committee passed HR-1349I, the Mountain Bikes and Wilderness Bill. So can you talk about this, about what this is, why is this bad, and what is the larger aim of this particular push?

GW: Sure. So what this bill would do is it would authorize all the federal agencies that have wilderness; which includes the Forest Service, the BLM, the National Park Service, and the Fish and Wildlife Service; to evaluate their lands that are presently part of the wilderness system created by the 1964 Wilderness Act, to assess the trails that might be available and could be used by mountain bikes and would authorize them to open up those trails to mountain biking. It would also encourage the agencies to basically encourage mountain biking as well. And by that, maybe modifying trails or helping create new trails in wilderness that could be ridden by mountain bikes.

To step back; the mountain biking community is divided on this issue, which is good to see. The International Mountain Biking Association, which is the largest mountain biking group in the country, is opposed to this bill. Their position is that they support existing wilderness and feel that bikes would be inappropriate there. The people pushing this are a smaller offshoot of mountain bikers who have created what they call the Sustainable Trails Association, and they are sort of the “expert” mountain bikers, the aggressive mountain bikers. Because a lot of trails that they seek to ride in wilderness areas, as well as elsewhere, are not things that a normal average person on a mountain bike could handle. So it’s a smaller subset of mountain bikers that’s pushing for this.

And the problem – there are many – there’s the more immediate problem of are mountain bikes appropriate in a lot of places, including wilderness? That’s the first issue. And the second issue is who is supporting this in Congress? Well, it’s being supported by some of the most anti-conservation, anti-environmentalist congressmen and senators. And so you have to say well why are they so anxious to get mountain biking in places like wilderness areas? Including Secretary of the Interior Zinke who is one of them who has come out saying we need to have more bikes allowed in these areas. So that raises a red flag for me, because I think that this is more than about mountain biking. It’s a way to weaken the intention of the Wilderness Act and then open up discussion, and then maybe eventually open up wilderness areas to many other forms of transportation, because after mountain bikers are permitted then you have an argument saying then why don’t we allow, for example, dirt bikes? Or why don’t we allow hovercraft? Or why don’t we allow jet skis? There are a lot of things and recreational machines out there about which people might then argue it’s unfair that they’re excluded when mountain bikes are allowed.

Now this gets back to some of the misinformation from the people at the Sustainable Trails Coalition. They have said that the original Wilderness Act, created in 1964, did not specifically exclude mountain bikes, which is true, partly because there was no such thing as a mountain bike in 1964. But what it did do is it said that no mechanical transport is allowed. And they said one of the purposes of the Wilderness Act is to reduce mechanization and the use of mechanized access into wildlands. So it specifically said no mechanical transport. Some of the bicyclists say “Well, it didn’t say bicycles.” Well, it didn’t say you couldn’t use a jet ski, or a snowmobile or a whole lot of other things. It didn’t say you can’t use a game cart. Game carts are also mechanical transport.

DJ: It also didn’t say that you can’t use tiger tanks, or Sherman tanks.

GW: (laughing) That’s right. Bulldozers. So they didn’t specifically list a lot of these things, so the fact that they didn’t list it doesn’t mean that it isn’t excluded, because it did say no mechanical transport. So that’s one of the myths. A second sort of false argument that I often hear from proponents is that mountain bikes are not as destructive of these trails as, say, horses, which are permitted under the Wilderness Act. And there are two responses to that. One is that horses were around at the time of the Wilderness Act and had been for a long time, and part of the Wilderness Act’s language is to encourage primitive means of access. People have been riding horses for thousands of years. And the second part of it is that even if you can argue that horses might do more damage to trails, which is true in some places, that doesn’t mean things are improved by also allowing mountain bikes. In other words, just because you have one activity that may not be as good as you might like or might result in some damage, it doesn’t mean adding another activity that also can cause damage is appropriate.

So that’s a second problem with it. A third problem that I see is sort of more ecological and that is that mechanical transport, whether it’s a mountain bike or any other mechanical attribute, allows you to traverse areas faster and get to more remote areas. And part of the reason why people such as myself support the designation of wilderness is that it creates more remote habitat for sensitive species. It provides a place where wildlife that might not mingle well with people has some refuge. And part of that refuge is just created by sheer distances. So if you can traverse a ten mile trail in an hour or an hour and a half, and it might take somebody hiking two or three or four hours to do that same trail, you shrink the value of that conservation area. And so that’s a problem.

And then there’s sort of a philosophical issue here too, and that is, again, another thing that the Wilderness Act attempts to do is to get people to sort of slow down, notice their environment, and to have a greater connection to nature. And if you’ve ever ridden a bike, and I have a mountain bike and I ride it, you don’t take your eyes off the trail. You’re just focused on what’s right in front of you, because it’s very difficult to avoid having a crash if you’re looking around. So the speed is not good. And that speed also has impacts on other users in the same way that snowmobiles and cross country skiers don’t usually get along. A mountain bike comes down a trail fast and suddenly comes around a bend and you can have accidents with hikers, and also horses are very skittish about mountain bikes. So you might also have accidents that way. It creates a more tense environment in these areas.

And one other aspect of it is that a lot of the people who are advocating for this are more interested in claiming they rode this bike to this peak or whatever. “Bragging rights” I guess is a way to say it. And of course that’s evolved with a lot of people in a lot of different activities. I’m proud of the fact if I hike 15 or 20 miles in a day. I tell my friends about it, of course. But it still seems to be that is a more dominant rationale for the mountain biking.

I did a recent survey of mountain bike magazines, and every one of the covers shows some guy – if you look at the iconology of those guys, they’re all wearing shirts with the labels of different companies on them. They’ve got helmets and goggles and they look for all intensive purposes like dirt bikers and they’re always halfway in the air. And they have things like “Conquer the mountain” and this whole idea of domination seems to be part of the more aggressive mountain bike community mindset. So that in itself, again, it’s a philosophical thing but that’s one of the things we’re trying to counter with wilderness, is to get away from this idea of domination. To have restraint and humility. And those are the values that are achieved, or are at least the desired outcome of people having a wilderness experience.

And finally, the Wilderness Act doesn’t really say much about recreation, and so this is not about preserving recreational opportunities per se. It’s about protecting wilderness and wildlands. The wildness is the primary purpose of the Wilderness Act. It’s not about who gets to do what recreational activities on these lands. So that’s why that bill is a threat, ultimately, because I think that it changes the whole ambience and goals that were set aside by the original Wilderness Act and creates an opportunity, and this gets back to who’s sponsoring it, for the people who are interested in degrading or reducing environmental laws, regulations and so forth to open up these lands to other uses. And eventually it’ll be fine to have bulldozers, recreational bulldozing in wilderness, right? Why shouldn’t we? Everybody has the right to their kind of recreation.

I’m being somewhat absurd there, but it’s not beyond the pale that that wouldn’t happen. So that’s the problem with this particular bill. But I would also say that I see it as a bigger threat beyond just the existing wilderness. Because what we’re seeing all around the west, and probably in the east coast too but I’m more familiar with the west, is happening with areas that have been set aside, or at least recognized as potential new wilderness areas. For example, you have wilderness study areas that aren’t designated by Congress as wilderness yet, but have been set aside where they have to maintain their wilderness values. And a lot of the federal agencies haven’t done much, if anything, to exclude mountain biking from those areas. That means that they then get a constituency utilizing those areas who then become vocal opponents to that ever being set aside as wilderness.

So, for example, in Montana, there was a bill created in 1977, called Senate Bill 393 that set aside, I believe at the original time, about ten roadless areas that were supposed to be protected as wilderness study areas, for future designation as wilderness. And most of those areas haven’t been dealt with one way or another. And recently, to their credit, for example, the Bitterroot National Forest had two of these wilderness study areas on the national forest. They had the Blue Joint Wilderness Study Area and the Sapphire Wilderness Study Area. And they determined that mountain biking in these areas was inappropriate. Before this mountain bikes had been using the areas, so now you have this group of mountain bikers who are saying “You’re taking away my recreational opportunity to go into the Sapphire or the Blue Joint.” It’s going to make it much harder to get those areas designated wilderness.

And the same thing is happening with another proposal in this area, south of Bozeman, called the Gallatin. Its original name was the Hyalite-Porcupine-Buffalo Horn Wilderness Study Area, but it’s the Gallatin Range, and again, because of existing mountain bike use that has built up in the area, a lot of the mountain bikers are opposed to wilderness. The original wilderness study area was 155,000 acres and the Forest Service is doing its plan, and it’s come out with a recommendation of only 83,000 acres. And then they cut off a big area called the Buffalo Horn, calling it a backcountry area, so that mountain bikers could continue to use it. And that area – if there is any area in the Gallatin Range that has ecological importance, that is the place. It’s used by a lot of grizzly bears, it’s a place bison could use to colonize coming out of Yellowstone Park, it’s got wolverine, it’s got migrating elk. It’s a fabulous area. So if you’re interested in conserving biodiversity you should be supporting wilderness for that area. And yet, and this is where it gets even more slippery, is a lot of the conservation groups in Montana have tried to have collaborative talks with mountain bikers, and they’re not supporting wilderness for the Buffalo Horn either because of the strong mountain biking opposition.

So this is the problem I see going forward, where the mountain bike community is not usually supportive of wilderness, and the ones that are, are usually overshouted by those who oppose it. One more example is there’s another wilderness study area in Wyoming near Jackson called the Palisades Wilderness Study Area. And recently Congressman Cheney from Wyoming has introduced legislation to open up that area to mountain biking, again because the aggressive mountain biking community in Jackson feels like they are being excluded from that area. So it’s a growing problem and I fear that we’re going to have a much more difficult time getting designated wilderness because of this constituency, designation which a lot of the environmental groups seem to love to oppose, probably in all likelihood because many of these so-called wilderness advocates ride mountain bikes themselves and don’t necessarily like to see these areas closed.

But it’s strange to me that in this day and age, going back to Montana as an example, you know 20 years ago the wilderness advocacy groups were much more aggressive about supporting maximum wilderness acres for wilderness designation and now they’re shy about it. You had opponents, logging companies, mining companies, all these other things, in the past. It should be easier than ever before to get wilderness designated and they seem to be capitulating before they even get started.

DJ: So I want to ask you about the importance of wilderness and the momentum – you know, in 1964 they were able to get a law passed and by now, I almost never hear even a lot of environmental organizations talking about wilderness. So I want to go there in a second, but before I do that, there are three or four images that came to mind that I want to just say and then you can respond to these any way you want.

One of them is that my mom is elderly and functionally blind. She can see, but she doesn’t have great vision. And she has talked for years about how walking in a town she has almost been run over any number of times by bicyclists. And this is on a sidewalk. So I just wanted to throw that in, in terms of what you’re saying about how pedestrian/mountain biker interactions. And another thing I want to mention is that – there are a couple of things. One is I read this article in Wild Earth back in the 90’s that always stuck with me. I think about this almost every day when I walk through the forest. It was an article about going barefoot. And it was saying that when we put on shoes, as opposed to moccasins or going barefoot, we turn ourselves from a soft-padded mammal into a hooved mammal, in terms of our effect on the ground. And that’s always stuck with me. And then I think that when you go to a mountain bike, you’re moving that just one more step further in terms of compaction, in terms of crushing beings. And that leads to the third thing, and final thing I want to mention right now, which is that even if you walk along a bike path, you will still see crushed newts and lizards and all sorts of small beings who would have been less likely to be crushed by people walking.

So I’m just throwing those things out in terms of – compared to clearcutting, those are all small. But those are all still effects and real.

GW: Well, you’re absolutely right, and the speed factor is a big part of the problem. The thing is that if you’re an “environmental group” and you’re not supporting wilderness, you’re not supporting the gold standard. Wilderness, and in many cases national parks, are proven to be the most effective way to conserve habitat and biodiversity, and ecological processes. We can all recognize there are problems with these, mostly because we don’t have enough areas protected. As E.O. Wilson has come out recently, and the World Congress on protected areas and various other organizations that won’t come out in recognition that we ought to be protecting at least half of the earth. So when a conservation group comes up with less than that – I’ll give you one other example where non-bikers can compromise to proposal. The largest roadless area left in the Cascades, near Bend, Oregon – it’s called the Maiden Peak Roadless Area, and has been proposed for many years to be designated wilderness. And the Sierra Club came out with a proposal they call “Keep Waldo Wild,” referring to Waldo Lake, which this main peak is adjacent to. And the mountain bikers objected to including the peak in the proposal because some people ride up to the top of the main peak. And so, trying to be good guys, or more inclusive, the Sierra Club came up with a proposal that named it a conservation area or some other name like that. And ultimately that area is not going to be wilderness if their position gets carried forward.

To me it’s just unconscionable that the Sierra Club would not be advocating for wilderness for that area. So this is the kind of thing that’s going on as groups enter into these collaboratives. That’s part of the problem, but the other problem is if they’re being fooled into supporting measures that have less ecological certainty than what we get with wilderness designation. Again, wilderness is the gold standard and we should be, as environmentalists, trying to get as much designated wilderness as possible, not compromising on that right from the beginning and willing to take things off the table entirely or changing the designation to something less effective than “wilderness.”

DJ: This all makes me think of something that you and I have worked on independently and also spoken of together, which is a dreadful transformation of so much environmentalism away from being about wild places and wild things and toward basically trying to recreate.

Both you and I enjoy being in forests, no doubt. But it seems to me that if you’re looking at a wild place as someplace for someone to ride their bike, that is a fundamentally different perspective than looking at it primarily as a refuge for grizzly bears and for various beetles who don’t like to cross open spaces.

GW: Exactly. I know you’re the same way too. I support wilderness designation for a whole lot of places I’ll never get to. And I do it based on the philosophical basis that we need more protected lands. It’s the way we pay our debt to the earth. We all have benefited from exploitation of the earth for a whole host of reasons. We need to – any place that can possibly qualify as wilderness should be protected as wilderness. That’s one of the best laws that we have in this country for protecting lands, and it’s one of our strongest laws. As you know, one can make all these economic arguments: it’s good for your local economy, it’s good to provide clean water for people and so forth. So there are all these human dimensions to it, but ultimately I think that some of us do this because we feel it’s the right thing to do for everything else living on earth and all the other creatures that need a home. And we need to share the planet with these creatures and we need to maintain to the greatest degree possible the ecological processes, many of which cannot operate in places that are actively managed for something like timber production or something like that, to allow those ecological processes that have shaped evolution to continue.

And that’s one of the values, and probably the biggest value of wilderness, not whether I hike there or anybody else can, you know, ski there, float a canoe, or whatever. Although I think that those are appropriate activities within limits. But we don’t need to add to the recreation impact. And people have to be aware, even with recreation, though, as you point out, that impact may not be as severe as would happen with a clearcut or livestock grazing, but there are still at some point cumulative impacts.

One of the things, again, about wilderness is that it tends to promote restraint and a different way of looking at the landscape, and I think that those are important values that we need to maintain and that we need to expand on. Wilderness helps us, at least some of us, to see a different relationship with the earth, and that’s something we need to get more widespread across our whole population.

DJ: So I want to tell a brief wilderness story and then I want to ask a question about the Wilderness Act itself. The brief story is: I remember one time being in the Rawah Wilderness Area in Colorado and I was the only person there except for a wilderness ranger, a federal employee who had the delightful job of hiking wilderness areas to make sure people weren’t camping too near streams. Seems like a pretty good job. Anyway, so I was having this wonderful time until I was sitting up near this lake, and all of a sudden I could hear this huge party of people shouting and yelling and just being really obnoxious. And I didn’t have as good a time after that. And my point is there was something, I don’t know, there was something, it almost felt like a bunch of people coming in and screaming and yelling and getting drunk in a church or something. I don’t know what point I’m trying to make, exactly. I just know that making the access – and you and I both agree that wheelchairs are allowed and should be allowed, insofar as there are paths, of course. So it wasn’t that, but there was a certain rowdiness – I don’t know. Is this meaning anything to you? Do you want to take this anywhere, or do you want me to just go on?

GW: No, no; I understand what you’re saying. And that is one of the things, that if you have humility and reverence for the landscape you wouldn’t be so noisy, and so forth. And that’s the problem that I see with mountain biking, for example, is that it promotes this idea of conquering and domination and so forth. Just go on line and Google mountain biking magazines, and you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about. That’s what all the articles are about, and what the Cutlers are about. And then Google “wilderness scene with person” and there will be somebody sitting quietly near a serene lake. It’s a whole different ambience and goal that is being promoted there. And I think that that is an important difference, and distinction, that’s not recognized, of course, by the mountain bikers themselves for the most part, because they don’t seem to be aware of it.

The other part of it, too, that I think this gets at, is what are we trying to do by accommodating every single use? Because somebody bought a bicycle, they have a right to use it on public lands? I’m not saying we should eliminate this use on all public lands. But I could buy a bulldozer and make the same argument. I’ve got a bulldozer now, so I should be allowed to use it. Well, no. Not necessarily. There are things on public lands that we tend to limit. There are a lot of parks, for example – you mentioned being loud and drinking. There are a lot of county and city parks where you can’t just go and have a big party and get drunk. It’s against the law because that seems inappropriate in the park, like it’s inappropriate in a church. It’s inappropriate in a lot of these places.

We recognize that there are places where that kind of approach and behavior serves as an invasion of what the area is supposed to be promoting. And I make the same argument about mountain biking generally. It promotes a sort of aggressive worldview and that worldview is not appropriate in our wilderness areas. And as I tried to say, I don’t think it’s appropriate in any place that’s being seriously considered for wilderness because I don’t want to see these areas not get their due as protected wilderness, via allowing a use to get established there that would disqualify it for wilderness protection.

I hear from people all the time: “Well, mountain bikers could be our allies.” Well, I’m not looking for allies if the only reason they’re supporting my position is for their own selfish interest. I see that as weak allies and ones that are not going to be good in the end. I’m happy to try to convince mountain bikers that wilderness is a good thing, and it helps if they’ll recognize that and why it’s inappropriate for them to be mountain biking there. I’d be happy to call them allies then. But not just to say “Well, if we accommodate your use will you support this area for some sort of protected status?” That’s a slippery slope, in my mind, and may very well end up impoverishing our whole conservation system as a result.

DJ: I have yet another question, before we go to the Wilderness Act of 1964. Living in Del Norte, which is extremely conservative and anti-environmental for the most part, one of the arguments I hear all the time against anybody who wants to take out roads or to prevent future roads from being pushed in is that we’re a bunch of elitists because we want to prevent people from experiencing – I mainly hear this about getting offroad vehicles off of land. They say that we’re elitist because we want to deny people access. So because – I’m sure you get this all the time, too. How do you respond to that, regarding this particular issue?

GW: Well, I start out by saying that only 2.7% of the lower 48 states is designated wilderness, for one thing. And even if you took all the remaining land that possibly might qualify, you might get up to 5 or 6% of the lower 48 states as designated wilderness. Which means that the vast majority of the country is already available for people who want to ride bicycles or motorcycles or snowmobiles or whatever, including the majority of public lands, I might add. But also a lot of private lands that would never qualify as wilderness. So if you’re talking about compromising, we passed that point a long time ago. That’s why I say every last acre that could possibly qualify as wilderness should be protected, because we have already developed the vast majority of the American landscape. And it is available to all those people who want to ride their dirt bikes or ORV’s or jet skis or snowmobiles, or ride their mountain bikes or whatever.

We’re just talking about the last little drips and drabs and saying can’t we just set those aside? I mean, is that asking too much? I don’t think it’s unreasonable at all, and especially if you take the idea that some ecologists are promoting, that we need to protect upwards of 50% of Earth from resource development. How are we going to get there if we only have 2.7% of the lower 48 states? That means a whole lot more area is needed to come under some sort of conservation guise, and certainly the first place to start is all the roadless areas that could qualify as wilderness. And then from there, maybe the passive recovery of areas that have been previously exploited, like, for example, in New England a lot of that area was cleared for farming and it’s grown back into forest and a lot of animals that were extirpated have recolonized it. So that’s a passive recovery, and that’s another way we get that 50%.

DJ: So we have about 10-13 minutes left, and before we wind down I want to get to a question that for me goes to the heart of a lot of this, which is how the hell did the Wilderness Act ever get passed in the first place? What was different? Because I can’t imagine. In my adult lifetime, I have seen nothing but erosion for the most part. Of the Endangered Species Act, of the Clean Water Act, of the Wilderness Act. I’ve seen erosions. I’ve not seen the environmental movement be able to mount any sort of great offensives where we had great things happen. What made that happen?

GW: Well, there were a couple of things going on. I’ll give you a quick history. The Wilderness Society was formed in 1935 and the membership of that society was a pretty illustrious list of some of the top biologists and wildlands thinkers of the time. Aldo Leopold, Bob Marshall, Olaus Murie among others. And I might add that all of them had had extensive personal experience in wildlands too. So they were passionate about protecting wildlands. And they formed the Wilderness Society.

The Wilderness Society took 1935 until 1964 to get the Wilderness Act, but their goal was to set up a wilderness system. There were 66 versions of the Wilderness Act written and introduced between the early 1950’s and 1964 when it passed. With many compromises along the way, in fact. Because the original version that was being advocated by the Wilderness Society ironically back then would have protected all the roadless lands left in the United States, which unfortunately didn’t make it through. But one of the things was, I think that the people behind this recognized that wildlands were being lost yearly. Bob Marshall, who formed the Wilderness Society; I’m going to paraphrase this because I don’t have it right in front of me; said “We don’t want any stragglers as members of the Wilderness Society. We don’t want people whose first instinct is to compromise, because too much good wilderness has been lost already by those kinds of folks.”

And it’s ironic that the Wilderness Society today, I wish they would be following their founder Bob Marshall’s philosophy, because they’re some of the first ones who will compromise on this in many cases. So anyway, we got that through and then I think there was a period up until the 50’s and the 60’s where you had all sorts of activism on all sorts of things. That’s when the Civil Rights Act was passed. That’s when the Vietnam war was occurring and there was opposition. And I think that people of that era, though of course there were a lot of people harmed in conflicts and so forth, over civil rights and Vietnam, etc.; they found that by being politically active they could change the world, so to speak. And I think that people have gotten more passive today and maybe haven’t had that experience. That’s my only theory. I don’t think you can say people were smarter then or had anything different that way. But they had a passion for protecting wildlands and I think maybe today a lot of that passion has been lost, and so people are kind of less willing to put their lives on the line, so to speak, whether physically or just emotionally and philosophically, to promote this idea of protecting wildlands.

DJ: So now we have about six or seven minutes left. Two questions, to sort of wind down. One of them would be what can people do to oppose this particular bill? And then, more importantly, I think; what can people do, no matter where they are, to actively promote both increase in wilderness areas and a disallowing of weakening of protection of wilderness areas?

GW: Okay, well there are two different answers. I would say the most important thing you can do is contact your congressional representative. I actually talked to a congressman last week and he told me “Look, you don’t have to know a whole lot of detail. All I need to do is hear from you, that you don’t support this or you do support that particular legislation. You don’t have to go into the details.” So you don’t have to be an expert about arguing why mountain bikes might not be appropriate or what the Wilderness Act originally said or anything else. All you have to do is write your congressmen or senators and say “If this legislation comes forward, please oppose it.” And at the same time, you should also write to your local newspaper, because one thing the congressional representatives do is they look at the local newspaper for letters to the editor and they figure that every letter to the editor is equivalent to a couple hundred other people. So if you’re going to write your congressman in the first place, or call them, send a short note to the local newspaper about that also. Again, you don’t have to know the intimate details. You just have to have the general idea in mind and express that.

The second part of what you were talking about, about how we could get more wilderness, and so forth – one of the ways that people should be aware of right now is many of these national forests around the country are going through what they call the “forest planning process.” And these forest plans are supposed to be renewed every 10 years. They often tend to get dragged out to every 20 years or more. And in those forest plans, one of the things that they have to do is evaluate any roadless areas for potential as wilderness. For example, the Custer Gallatin Forest in Montana just came out with its draft plan, and I went through it and it had all these areas that mostly they were recommending against wilderness, a few areas where they were recommending some wilderness. And I just encourage people to get involved, and if you know of a roadless area around you, or several; when the Forest Service is taking comment, write in.

One of the things with a lot of these federal agencies – there are a lot of good people who work for federal agencies, actually, who are probably sympathetic, at least to some of the positions that you and I are discussing. But they need the political cover to do the right thing. And if, for example, 500 people were to write in on the Custer Gallatin Plan saying “we want more wilderness here and there,” the Forest Service could – it may not, but it could then have the political cover to maybe expand its wilderness recommendations. So that’s an example. The other is to, of course, vote. We know that elections have consequences. Right now we have one of the most anti-environmental administrations that I’ve seen in my whole life. I used to think that James Watt and Reagan were bad. But they were nothing compared to what we have now. And so you have to try to get people elected that are going to be supportive of protecting land and keeping environmental laws intact.

One of the other bills out there – this is just an aside, but this whole border wall thing having to do with immigration – there are a number of bills that would allow Homeland Security to build roads, put in helicopter landing pads, all sorts of surveillance stuff within 100 miles of the border, on all the borders, 100 miles south of the Canadian border and 100 miles north of the Mexican border. So what’s in that area? Well, in terms of wilderness alone, there are 32 million acres of designated wilderness that falls within that 100 mile zone, including places like the North Cascades National Park, Olympic National Park, Glacier National Park, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, Glacier Bay National Park, Wrangell Mountains National Park. And then down on the southern border, Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, Organ Pipes National Park, etc. That bill would waive 36 or 38, something like that, environmental regulations including the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the Wilderness Act, the Endangered Species Act, etc.

These other bills are a real threat to wildlands too. People have to start paying attention to them. One place you can keep up on at least the threats directly to wilderness is a group called Wilderness Watch in Missoula, Montana. You can go on their site, but they list all these legislations that are a threat to wilderness. That would be a good place to start if anybody’s interested.

DJ: Well thank you so much for all of your constant work in defense of the wild. And I would like to thank listeners for listening. My guest today has been George Wuerthner. This is Derrick Jensen for Resistance Radio on the Progressive Radio Network.

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