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Wild Alert:

3/12/01 

In January, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service proposed a new policy to keep the "wild" in wilderness.  It would supersede the current, antiquated policy that fails to reflect the agency's duty to protect wilderness character.  Your comments are needed by March 19 to support and strengthen this policy, and to turn back internal and external assaults from wilderness opponents. Take action at
http://www.wilderness.org/standbylands/refuges/wildpolicy.htm

BACKGROUND
The US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) manages nearly 21 million acres of wilderness on 70 wildlife refuges in 26 states.  These wilderness areas protect a range of wildlife habitat and wilderness character, from the rugged coastal islands of the Alaska Maritime Refuge, to the stark beauty of the Sonoran Desert at Cabeza Prieta, the lush, steamy swamps of Okefenokee, and the forests of the Maine coast.

A STRONG, NEW POLICY
Across the board, the FWS's policy is a vast improvement over the existing agency manual.  It is rare in the way it eloquently and poetically captures the meaning of wilderness character.  The draft policy also emphasizes that humility and restraint must guide the management of wilderness.  It correctly emphasizes that wilderness is a place where nature is permitted to take its natural course, stating that FWS wilderness will be managed to "maintain components of natural biological diversity such as wildlife populations with natural densities, social structures, and dynamics."

The policy also contains an excellent description of and mandate to
protect solitude in wilderness.  And it provides for sound mechanisms to inventory and protect the wilderness character of wildlands that Congress has not yet designated as wilderness.  All of these improvements deserve strong support.

SOME STRENGTHENING NEEDED
Some improvements could be made to strengthen the policy.  For example, nearly 90% of all FWS wilderness is in Alaska, and special provisions related to Alaska must not be permitted to degrade wilderness character there.  By law, snowmachines, motorboats, and airplanes are allowed as *transportation methods* in Alaska wilderness, but only for "traditional activities."

Further, such access may be subject to agency regulation.  FWS's policy
should provide a narrow definition of "traditional activities" that is
modeled on the National Park Service's definition.  The policy should omit language suggesting that motorized entry could be routinely allowed for almost any general public access within Alaska wilderness.

The policy should also be strengthened to ensure that alteration of
habitat, biological resources, or ecological processes is not allowed
within FWS wilderness except in extremely limited circumstances, such as to protect or recover threatened or endangered species or to alleviate negative impacts to wilderness character caused by human influence.

TAKE ACTION
Please tell the Fish and Wildlife Service BY MARCH 19 that you support the agency's draft stewardship policy with some modifications.  Send your comments from
http://www.wilderness.org/standbylands/refuges/wildpolicy.htm  or write, fax, or e-mail the agency directly.

Tell FWS you SUPPORT the draft policy's:

- definition of wilderness character, its emphasis that humility and
restraint must guide the wilderness stewardship, and its description of
and mandate to protect solitude in wilderness.

- direction for managing wilderness so that components of natural
biological diversity are maintained and natural processes can take their
course.

- requirements concerning inventorying and protecting the wilderness
character of wildlands that Congress has not yet designated as wilderness.

Ask the agency to make the following MODIFICATIONS to the policy:

- provide for a narrow definition of "traditional activities" -- modeled
on the National Park Service's definition -- allowing for the use of
certain motorized equipment in Alaska wilderness which does not include
recreational snowmobiling.

- ensure that alteration of habitat or ecological processes is not allowed
within wilderness except in extremely limited circumstances, such as to
protect or recover threatened or endangered species or to alleviate
negative impacts to wilderness character caused by human influence.

Send your message to:

National Wildlife Refuge System
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
4401 North Fairfax, Room 670
Arlington, VA 22203
Fax:  703-358-2248
E-mail:  Wilderness_Policy_Comments@fws.gov

***************************************************************
For a full list of Action Items, visit
http://www.wilderness.org/whatcan/takeaction.htm

 

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