Wilderness at battle with fat and money hungry
As two of America's oldest wildernesses turn 40 this month, conservationists are blowing out the candles in the hopes that the commercial packing industry doesn't crash the party.
A lawsuit filed with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in coordination with a number of environmental groups, is seeking to bring an end to the commercial pack mule and horse industry in the John Muir and Ansel Adams wilderness located on the east side of the Sierras.
Basing the lawsuit off information from the 1964 Wilderness Act that states, “there shall be no commercial enterprise and no permanent road within any wilderness area,” conservationists are asking that the court consider fixing meadows and other areas damaged by commercial pack animals.
The lawsuit may even prevent packers from accessing the wilderness areas all together, making hiking the only means of transportation.
If the lawsuit passes, it would deal a fatal blow to the packing industry which has already had its services cut by 20 percent since the laswuit was created.
But those in the packing industry aren't going to accept defeat without a fight, claiming that the lawsuit is a violation of their rights.
“It will be a blatant discrimination if the...court is allowed to impose upon taxpaying Americans a requirement to hike to have access to wilderness areas, which were created for all of us to enjoy,” Brad Myers, owner of D & F Pack Station, said in Monday's Fresno Bee. “Some of us are not fit to hike.”
That some people are not fit to hike is a poor excuse. There are 60 million obese people living in the United States, and for those people to be destroying what very little wilderness this country has left because they are too fat to tread lightly is discrimination against taxpayers healthy enough to enjoy it without leaving traces of their presence.
Obese visitors and packing businesses should be glad they have enjoyed leniency on the subject for as long as they have because the Wilderness Act clearly states the business is illegal.
The language of the Act is such to deter unnecessary use of the land.
It states that “wilderness is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.”
Those in favor of the packing industry cite a provision in the Wilderness Act that they say makes it legal to keep their businesses running. It states, “Commercial services may be performed in those areas to the extent necessary for activities which are proper for realizing the recreational or other wilderness purposes of the areas.”
The provision, however, is a very weak argument due in part to thefact that it can be left open to interpretation.
What is necessary for realizing the recreational purpose of the wilderness?
In reality, all you need is your person, a good pair of shoes, and food and water to enjoy the wilderness sites.
For those who aren't fit enough to hike, what is necessary for them to realize the recreational purpose of the wilderness will have to start back at home on a treadmill.
Concerning the business side of the problem, people need to realize that the protection of these areas is of far greater importance than running a business.
U.S. Forest Service officials said the concept of wilderness will be appreciated far in the future as expansion fills in open spaces.
“I think 200 years from now, people will think this is the best idea we ever had,” said regional spokesman Matt Mathes in The Fresno Bee on Monday. “They are a great place for people to go, but they are literally the last refuge for wildlife.”
This country's wilderness areas are in very short supply. Unlike obesity and lost jobs, the damage that we do now to our wilderness can never be repaired. What we take for granted now, our children and their children will never get to enjoy or appreciate.
While eliminating packing from our wilderness areas might seem irrelavent or unnecessary, with each small step we take toward conservation and preservation, the closer we get to eliminating the threats of extinction surrounding these areas.