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Think your local public land deserves the status? It’s all about building a coalition, says Doug Scott, who’s participated in 75 successful wilderness campaigns. Here’s how to build your team.
- Recruit the land manager. Find sympathetic folks in the local agency, the higher up the better (aim for the superintendent). Get their support as you fiddle with boundaries.
- Call the enviros. State wilderness groups and Sierra Club chapters have staff and members with valuable experience to help smooth your way.
- Convince the locals. Gather surprising or non-obvious allies, like mayors or city councils, tourism associations, and small business owners. Consider crafting broad land-use deals to get support from groups that might have opposed wilderness in the past, like mountain bikers, OHV riders, and timber companies.
- Sell it to Congress. House members and senators are ultimately who will introduce a wilderness bill and make sure it gets passed. Approach them once you have the rest of the team in place. Start by wooing the district field office staff with an outing to see the area. When the boss gets on board, make sure he or she gets plenty of media attention for it. Aim to get support from each congressperson whose district includes or touches the new area.
- Gather your patience. “In my experience, it takes about 12 years for a wilderness to get designated,” says Ralph Swain, who oversees 46 Forest Service wildernesses in the Rockies. “Congress may be slow these days,” addsScott, “but if the local reps keep up their enthusiasm, they’ll eventually succeed.”