To the editor:
Deseret News environmental writer Joseph Bauman went to great lengths in a recent column to impugn the validity of a recent study of Utah State University.The USU study indicated that recreation in congressionally designated wilderness is declining. Bauman would like to think that wilderness increases recreation. This would tend to justify more wilderness designation. His prejudice favoring congressional wilderness has always been readily apparent.
When the nature and purpose of congressional wilderness are considered one can only conclude that the USU study has confirmed the obvious. Congressional wilderness is specifically intended to exclude man. Hiking is the only recreational access allowed. With the aging of the baby boomers and two wage earner families, the number of backpackers is declining.
The National Forest Products Association weekly newsletter "This Week" in November 1988 made the following observation: "The decline of the backpackers is a sign of changing times in national parks. National park officials say that while record crowds are jamming the national parks, backpacking has dropped 40 percent since its peak in 1976. It is now at its lowest level since 1972."
National Park Service data show that back country use, the only kind of recreation possible in wilderness, has declioned 2 percent per year for the past four years while all other forms of use have increased.
The April 1989 "National Geographic" carried a lengthy article on the John Muir Trail. The trail passes through three national parks, one national monument and four wilderness areas along the spine of the Sierra Nevada. Says the "National Geographic": "...but backpacking no longer holds as much magic for the young generation and only a few hundred people a year hike the entire trail."
The USU study merely validates the obvious. Bauman cannot abide this because it conflicts with his ideology.
Clyde Thompson, chairman
Emery County Commission