Just a portion of the article that deals with ORV users......
NO ROAD V. OFF-ROAD
Outside of timber and oil companies, off-road vehicle groups (ORVs) users are the most vocal and powerful opponents of Wilderness. In Utah alone, where millions of acres qualify for Wilderness protection, there are enough ORVs to circle the earth four times. While inventorying the Georigia's Mountaintown Roadless Area for National Scenic Area designation, the Forest Service discovered miles of illegal ORV trails within the roadless area boundaries. A disproportionate amount of legal and illegal ORV trails at the headwaters of the Tellico River in North Carolina's Nantahala National Forest has prompted a coalition of environmental organizations to threaten litigation against the Forest Service for poor management.
Heather Spivey is an environmental consultant for the Southern Four Wheel Drive Association, an ORV group that is concerned about "equal access" but doesn't discount Wilderness altogether. "There is a need for us to preserve green spaces that are not touched by man. At the same time, there needs to be equal use for equal users, and those uses need to be considered when Wilderness is designated."
An anti-wilderness ORV-group called the Blue Ribbon Coalition goes a step further and argues that Wilderness "locks up" public land and is an "assault on [our] rights and liberties." The coalition's slogan says the group is “Preserving our natural resources FOR the public, instead of FROM the public.” Their website is peppered with photos of serene mountains locked behind chains and padlocks.
“There’s a legend in anti-Wilderness circles that Wilderness is something silver tongued lobbyists pull off in Washington,” says Doug Scott, a representative of the Campaign for Wilderness and author of The Enduring Wilderness. “They’re flat out wrong. Wilderness is not the federal government telling people how to treat their land. It’s the people telling the federal government.”
Scott has been involved with the Wilderness movement since shortly after the Wilderness Act was passed in 1964. He was instrumental in the development of the Eastern Wilderness Act of 1975 and has influenced a number of Wilderness bills over the last 40 years.
Scott was originally drawn to Wilderness specifically because it is a land designation that comes directly from American citizens. While national parks and national forests have historically been “handed down” from the federal government, often employing eminent domain in the face of local opposition, the path to Wilderness takes the opposite route. Local citizen organizations are responsible for inventorying roadless areas and proposing Wilderness designations. For example, the West Virginia delegation is currently using studies performed by the West Virginia Wilderness Coalition and citizen comments to inform that state’s Wilderness bill.
“The Wilderness Act of 1964 invited the public into the process of how land was managed like never before,” Scott says. “Ordinary citizens, because of their love for a place, get involved with this protection. It proves that in our democracy, if you educate yourself on a topic, you can influence the outcome. Without local support, Wilderness doesn’t happen. If there’s a Wilderness bill in Virginia, it’s because Virginians want Wilderness.”
He’s speaking specifically of the Ridge and Valley Act, which is being held up as a sparkling example of how Wilderness works for the American people, not against them.
“With the Ridge and Valley Act, we’re showing that communities are really behind these Wilderness designations,” says Sherman Bamford, public land coordinator for the Virginia Forest Watch. “Local governments, bear hunters, mountain bikers, they all endorse this bill.”
The Ridge and Valley Act will designate 55,000 acres of new Wilderness in Virginia and add two new National Scenic Areas in Southwest Virginia. It’s the first Wilderness bill that the International Mountain Biking Association has ever endorsed because it takes existing recreation uses into consideration when creating Wilderness boundaries.
Over 316 million acres of public land are still roadless, In the Southeast, there are 700,000 acres of inventoried roadless areas. Over half of those acres are in Virginia's George Washington National Forest, which will soon undergo its management plan revision. The management plan can recommend additional Wilderness areas, as well as other forms of protection like National Recreation Areas and Wild and Scenic Rivers.
“We need a mix of protections for public lands, particularly here in the East where we’re so cramped for space," says Shelley. "Wilderness is usually the best option, but we’re not opposed to National Scenic Areas or Recreation Areas, as long as we’re strengthening the protections on the land.”
As our cities expand and our forests shrink, it is becoming increasingly apparent that safeguarding the last remaining wild forests is not a luxury for the few, but a necessity for all. If Americans need National Parks for recreation, then we need Wilderness for salvation. In the words of Wallace Stegner, author and Wilderness advocate, “We simply need that wild country available to us, even if we never do more than drive to the edge and look in. For it can be a means of reassuring ourselves of our sanity as creatures, a part of the geography of hope.” •