What Would You Do If You Were In Charge of America's Wilderness?
If you were made steward of a popular wilderness, how would you handle things?
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You’re in charge
You’ve been appointed steward of a large, popular wilderness not far from a major city. Every choice you make will effect the land’s four wilderness qualities (undeveloped, solitude, untrammeled , and natural ; see below), which derive directly from the Wilderness Act. Each choice is based on a real-world scenario. Just as in real life, you’ll face growing tension between the qualities the Act protects, due to the increasing effects of climate change and other human pressures. Grab a pencil, tally your score, and see what kind of manager you’d be—and how your choices affect hikers, ecosystems, and the very idea of wilderness itself.
As a wilderness manager, you can’t have it all. Every choice has consequences, good and bad: Keep a running tally for each quality, then see which category scored highest to figure out what kind of manager you are. Your concerns:
Undeveloped: Adding buildings or structures degrades this quality; removing them improves it. Using motorized tech (bulldozers) or mechanized transport (bikes or wheelbarrows) also degrades it.
Solitude/Unconfined Recreation: Whatever crimps chances for deep, out-there backpacking degrades this aspect. Boosting quality of recreation improves it.
Untrammeled: The more humans choose to interfere, the more this aspect erodes. A hands-off approach improves it.
Natural: Anything that helps native species, processes, and landscapes thrive is a plus. Threats to them degrade it.
- POOP IS PILING UP NEAR A POPULAR ALPINE CAMPSITE.
- LODGEPOLE PINES NEED FIRE TO REPRODUCE, BUT A HISTORY OF SUPPRESSION LEFT THE FOREST DENSE AND VULNERABLE TO A HUGE BLAZE.
- EVEN…WAS THE WORK DONE IN TIME? TODAY’S DATE IS…EVEN BAD LUCK. THE FIRE WAS TOO HOT SO THE TREES ARE ALL CRISPED, AND NOW SOIL EROSION IS OUT OF CONTROL.
- ODD…THE FIRE STAYED SMALL AND NOW SOME NEW TREES ARE SPROUTING. YOU’RE CONSIDERING PRESCRIBED
BURNS IN ANOTHER ZONE, WHICH WILL HELP THE FOREST’S LONG-TERM HEALTH.
- STATE FISH AND GAME OFFICIALS STOCK LAKE WATERY WITH NONNATIVE HUNGRYFISH EVERY YEAR. BUT NEW RESEARCH SHOWS HUNGRYFISH EAT ENDANGERED FROG TADPOLES.
- THE RANGER IN A REMOTE PATROL CABIN IS RUNNING OUT OF FOOD!
- INCREASING ACIDITY IS KILLING THREATENED, NATIVE GOODFISH IN LAKES THAT ARE DOWNWIND FROM A POWERPLANT
- STEELY DAM IS PREVENTING SALMON FROM MAKING IT UPRIVER TO SPAWN AND DIE, THUS DEPRIVING THE BEARS AND FOREST OF AN IMPORTANT SOURCE OF NUTRIENTS.
- HA! GOOD LUCK WITH THAT.
- A COMMERCIAL GROUP APPLIES FOR A PERMIT TO TAKE GROUPS OF VETERANS ON WEEKLONG TREKS UP A POPULAR PEAK; THEY’D BE RUNNING TRIPS THERE MOST OF THE SUMMER.
- Install a vault toilet.
- Limit camping with a permit system.
- Remove signs and stop maintaining the trail to make access harder.
- Thin the forest slowly, using crosscut saws and horses.
- Cross your fingers and put extra Smokey The Bear signs at trailheads.
- Fire up the chainsaws and helis to thin the forest fast.
- And so it goes.
- Replant the area with the same plant types that were there.
- Replant the area with a mix of flora, including trees normally found farther south. Hopefully some will survive as climate shifts.
- Last one to the drip torch is a rotten egg!
- Sounds hot and smoky. No thanks.
- Let them keep stocking; anglers love it.
- Piscicide! Send in crews to poison the hungryfish using motorized rafts.
- Stop stocking and see what happens.
- Send in a helicopter, which is speedy and will avoid resource damage along the trail.
- Hire a chain of mules to pack in pasta. Fasting builds character.
- Stock goodfish in other naturally fishfree lakes.
- Helicopter in limestone to spread on the water; it’ll lower the acidity for the next six months.
- Send a few goodfish to the local aquarium and hold a small, private farewell ceremony.
- Fly in frozen salmon carcasses to drop on the forest and feed the bears; the power company is offering to fund it.
- Watch and weep.
- Remove the dam!
- If there’s a full moon tonight, you win! Score these points:
- Otherwise,politics prevail. Go back and pick a Plan B.
- Deny! Commercial trips aren’t what wilderness is for.
- Allow! They deserve it, and it’s important to get as many people as possible experiencing this place.
It’s time for your annual review.
Which category scored highest?
Primitivist: Knock down all the buildings and ban all the helicopters! You want to feel like Lewis and Clark.
Escapist: You’ll tolerate some restrictions (like permits) if they’ll keep out the hordes, but you’re against limits on your own sense of isolation.
Lennonite McCartneyite: As John Paul the Beatle put it, “Let it be.” You’re wary of playing God, and appreciate the chance for total humility that unmessed-with wilderness offers.
Ecofreak: You value ecological integrity above all else. Save the trees!