To the editor:
A recent letter by the Utah Manufacturers Association made some assertions concerning designated wilderness which need explanation.1. Camping in wilderness areas is not prohibited near lakes and streams unless specific studies have determined the need for restrictions. Having been a wilderness ranger and participated in numerous wilderness management plans, I know these restrictions are generally 200 feet from water, a sanitation standard.
2. Mechanical transport is prohibited except in emergencies or many fire fighting situations. Vehicular use is sometimes allowed based on prior existing rights.
3. Hunting and fishing can't be prohibited because the Division of Wildlife Resources sets limits and seasons by constitutional prerogative.
4. Where artificial stocking of fish has taken place in wilderness - and it has almost everywhere - it is allowed. In some heavily-used areas, both biologists and Forest Service wilderness managers may alter stocking procedures because the environment and fishable waters have deteriorated.
5. A natural fire policy is only used under the tightest conditions. For example, on Wasatch Front wildernesses, fires are aggressively fought because of watersheds.
6. Motor boats and permanent habitation are not allowed in wilderness. The motor boat issue is a ruse - many wildernesses don't have lakes.
7. Primitive toilets are allowed. Specific legislation in some wildernesses even allows helicopter maintenance of toilets. Most, if not all, wildernesses have bridges or educational signs for safety - not decoration.
8. Grazing is allowed where established prior to wilderness designation. Where grazing denigrates the environment it can and should be controlled just like on any other land. Thousands of sheep graze in Utah's wildernesses. In some areas this is causing severe environmental damage.
Wilderness management is understood by tens of thousands of Utahns who regularly use the High Uintas Wilderness, the Mt. Olympus Wilderness and others. They are our heritage. Utah has only 1.5 percent of its land base designated as wilderness - hardly enough to find. The U.S. has only 4 percent of its land designated as wilderness. More is coming, but not much, because very little land is left that qualifies as wilderness.
Wildernesses are used by all of us, including, I'm sure, numerous members of the Utah Manufacturers Association who find wilderness refreshing and filled with challenge.
Where and how much wilderness should be designated are legitimate questions. The coalition letter noted a moderate amount of wilderness is beneficial, but that is not the position taken by the Utah Manufacturers Association, part of the Multiple Use Pubic Lands Coalition which opposes all wilderness. That is not realistic.
Utah Wilderness Association