Archived Outdoors

Wilderness — we don’t need no stinkin wilderness

out naturalistFlying around Facebook pages (after all this is the age of information) is, apparently, a poll or online survey declaring that Macon County doesn’t want anymore wilderness. According to this online scientific survey, Macon County is adamantly opposed to adding anymore wilderness to the national forest in Macon County. The graphic I saw had 60 percent of respondents saying “… leave Macon County as is .…”

Trying to track down the genesis of this poll I discovered that one may vote as many times as one wishes re: the question of more wilderness in Macon County. So, if you have the fortitude and finger strength and a secure Internet provider (say someone besides AT&T) you could vote as often as you liked – this, especially resonates with me being from Louisiana where the slogan “vote early and often” described state politics.

So what is this dreaded overrun of wilderness in Macon County? Well there are around 152,000 acres of national forest in Macon County — and a whopping 6,000 acres or so, about 4 percent, are wilderness. It’s easy to see that any addition to this overwhelming percentage would soon mean that Macon County had lost any validation as a “managed” forest community and was lost in the doldrums of “lock it up and throw away the key.”

And what about “throwing away the key” — an admonition you hear like a chorus of spring peepers near a wetlands on a warm spring night. Actually, the gate is kinda dummy-locked — you know, wrap the chain around so it looks like it’s locked — but if you have to go in there you can.

There’s not a Wilderness Area in the country that the Forest Service can’t enter with bulldozers, helicopters, 4-wheel drives, or any other mechanical equipment deemed necessary to fight wildfires. And there may be some, but I don’t know of any wilderness areas in North Carolina that are off limits to hunters. 

Is there more at work here? Are well-organized special interest groups looking for more influence in the new Nantahala-Pisgah plan? I’ve written about it before — see “Put the Forest First” — .

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It would be extremely hard to find a more intelligent, dedicated, focused and sincere group of professionals than one could find employed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service. I know, I work for them and with them. If the health and management of National Forests across North Carolina and across the country was left to the scientists, biologists and land mangers of the USDA Forest Service our public lands would blossom in way never experienced before.

But USDA Forest Service answers to the political whims of the time. And that’s why it’s important to let them know — not only how you feel about wilderness, but how you feel about the wildlands that make our North American continent so unique in terms of biodiversity and in terms of unspoiled wildlands.

December 15 is cutoff date for comments regarding wilderness designations. You can comment at, and even if you don’t have a plan for whichever/whatever acres might be suggested for wilderness, you can comment on how you feel about wilderness areas in our national forests. That’s important too.

(Don Hendershot is a writer and naturalist. He can be reached a This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..)

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