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Presidential Ponderings

February 2018

“The Wilderness does not need a defense, it only needs defenders.” Edward Abbey

Public lands are our inheritance from our ancestors. They are our connection to the past and represent the egalitarian liberties America was founded on over two hundred years ago. Wilderness is today the one place where man is humbly equal before nature’s forces. Wilderness is also the one place that cannot be recreated, digitalized or experimented with. Once Wilderness is destroyed, it is EXTINCT! Our challenge is to educate and defend our public lands from such encroachments.

I don’t think anyone could make the argument against the wilderness in general. I’d like to think we can pretty much agree that the concept of wilderness is OK, that there isn’t anything particularly wrong with the idea. The challenge comes in defending our wild areas from countless exceptions and exclusions from congress and special interest groups.

The term "wilderness" is defined as "an area where the earth and community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain" and "an area of undeveloped Federal land retaining its primeval character and influence, without permanent improvements or human habitation, which is protected and managed so as to preserve its natural conditions."

There are now some proposals before Congress that will adversely impact Wilderness areas in the United States. Some of these measures include:

• The SHARE Act (often referred to as the “Sportsmen’s’ Bill”), which would effectively gut the Wilderness Act.
• H.R. 1349, a bill that would open all Wildernesses to mountain bikes and other forms of mechanical transport.
• “Border bills” that would waive the Wilderness Act, Endangered Species Act, and a dozen-plus other environmental laws within 100 miles of any U.S. border, including on more than 30 million acres of Wilderness.
• A bill to allow the State of Alaska to build an 11-mile road through the heart of the Izembek Wilderness.
• The Administration’s efforts to shrink our National Monuments, including some with Wilderness.
• Copper mining in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.

There is an old concept that says we do not inherit the lands from our ancestors, rather we borrow it from our children. Thinking back thru history some of our fore fathers had the sense to think about preservation. Consider the invention of national parks and the Wilderness Act among others. Unfortunately, not everyone was aware of the impact we would have on the environment form our energy, trash and living needs.

Upon signing the Wilderness Act, President Johnson said: "If future generations are to remember us with gratitude rather than contempt, we must leave them something more than the miracles of technology. We must leave them a glimpse of the world as it was in the beginning, not just after we got through with it."

We need to be diligent about protecting our Wilderness. This topic is especially relevant to the GATC since many of our trails are in designated Wilderness areas. Fortunately, at the moment, there are no threats to the Appalachian Trail in Georgia. However, that could easily change. Several parts of the AT are now threatened with pipeline crossings. Complacency is not an option!

One positive development is the formation of the Appalachian Trail National Scenic Trail Caucus. This is being formed by avid AT hikers Congressman Phil Roe (R-TN) and Congressman Don Beyer (D-VA) with assistance from ATC. Congressman Doug Collins (R-GA) representing the 9th district, through which the in Georgia passes, has also joined the caucus.

The mission of the bipartisan Appalachian National Scenic Trail Caucus is to unite interested Members of the U.S. House of Representatives in working together for the sustained protection and conservation of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. The Caucus is significant in its entire connectedness with compelling the need for federal, state and local stakeholders to work together on relevant policies and appropriate funding.

You can be a Defender of Wilderness and help protect these treasures by writing to your representatives and senators and letting them know how you feel. I can give you the contact information for your district and help with suggested copy for your letter. Contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Jay Dement