What does it take for the Forest Service change their ingrained culture of disdain for the use of power saws for wilderness trail maintenance? Hands of Forest Service employees for wilderness trail maintenance has been allowed repeatedly.
Powered rock drills and portable generators are permissible. Power saw use in the The National Parks use power saws in trail maintenance under the same Wilderness Act regulations as the Forest Service. Power saws were used to maintain most wilderness trails prior to wilderness designation.
The Back Country Horsemen agree that primitive tools are appropriate for wilderness trail maintenance when preserving historic access and the purposes out lined in the Wilderness Act can be accomplished by their use. If these two conditions cannot be met, then consideration of the use of modern motorized tools is not only appropriate – but is necessary.
We would like to ask the Forest Service, and any other wilderness visitor that thinks loss of thousands of miles of trail is more acceptable then limited and managed use of power saws for trail maintenance, to consider the following questions.
Do you agree that trail access is necessary to meet the mandate under law to administer “areas designated by Congress as wilderness areas … for the use and enjoyment of the American people”? Do you agree with the recent GAO report identifying the lack of trail maintenance, the results of that practice, and the magnitude of the growing trail maintenance deficit? Do you think that continued use of primitive tools and leaving thousands of miles of historic wilderness trails unusable is meeting your obligation of administering wilderness unimpaired for future use?
Do you believe that wilderness visitation is important to promote appreciation of wilderness by seeing, feeling and enjoying real wilderness experiences? Do you believe that wilderness appreciation gained by visits also builds support for future wilderness preservation, especially for our nation’s youth? Do you also think that such support for wilderness will encourage those visitors to work to protect wilderness in the future? So how can we can we promote the ideal of, “wilderness visits = appreciation = support = protection” if we cannot provide the trail access necessary to make visits possible?
There are many wilderness areas where the Agency have used power saws for trail maintenance, as well as the continued use of power saws in wilderness areas administered by the National Park Service, with no history of threats to wilderness with requests for carte blanche use of power saws for trail maintenance, or worse – motorized transportation. Do you believe that allowing limited and managed power saw use for historic trail maintenance that currently cannot be accomplished in any other manner will threaten wilderness in that manner?
Do you agree that failure to maintain a trail system that pre-dates passage of the Wilderness Act in a condition that provides for historically acceptable uses, and preserves the investment necessary to provide for “future use and enjoyment as wilderness,” must at least warrant consideration of legally acceptable alternative management approaches through a minimum requirements process?
Do you agree that mitigation of the impacts of catastrophic fire, insect and disease damage piling thousands of down trees across trails is likely to not happen in the near future?
The following situations are actions that could reduce the current huge trail maintenance and reconstruction backlog.
- Increased funding
- Budget allocations that provide for recreation and trails
- Improving the percentage of trails budgets that actually “hit the ground”
- Changing the “we can’t do anything” philosophy where it exists
- Do you think that action on these situations will occur soon enough to avoid the closure of many trails due to lack of maintenance?
- When the answers to the above questions are honestly considered it becomes obvious that it is time to consider the use of motorized trail maintenance equipment, including power saws.
Dan Applebaker – High Desert Trail Riders BCH