The Bob is awesome. Video by Michael Reavis.
Anyone who’s been out in the woods a lot and has been paying attention should be aware of this problem; that even the quietest, most fleeting and “natural” of human travel in the wild has a significant impact on the plants and animals who live there full time. And there is virtually no way, save perhaps the more abstract political/policy realms, in which that impact is anything other than negative. This isn’t the space to debate the axiomatic, idiomatic importance of wilderness for the human soul, but it is the space to say out loud, repeatedly, that in the 21st century we humans inevitably do violence to parts of what we value when we go out to find it. At the same time, folks like the Sustainable Trails Coalition point to considerable evidence that the architects of the Wilderness Act intended for people to not only be visitors to Wilderness, but to be catered to in the process.
So perhaps it is time to admit that the Wilderness Act needs revision. I’ve never been in favor of stock in Wilderness, and I am no longer in favor of bicycles being admitted under certain circumstances. Instead, lets make Wilderness wilderness and ban any substantive human presence: any buildings, any bridges, and any trail maintenance. Shoulder areas around the areas of greatest biological integrity can have trails cut and faster-than-foot methods of travel allowed. Many current roads can remain open, but allowed to fall into decay, and will become bicycle, stock and sub 30 mph ATV only by default.
There is precedent, in the form of the Bear Management Areas of Yellowstone and of Wildlife Management Areas nationally to name two examples, for humans being eliminated entirely from the landscape, at least on a seasonal basis. I just don’t think it’s realistic to implement that on a grand scale, and have always been in favor of the most democratic way of capping visitation: making stuff hard to get to. It has simply been too easy, in the midst of all the fighting over what was and was not included by the Wilderness Act, to not ask broader questions. And as Casey said a few months ago, science and common sense are both telling us, ever more loudly, that the Wilderness Act asked the right questions, but didn’t think big enough.