Shoshone forest plan ought to include more wilderness designAug 19, 2012 Sara Domek, Dubois
The Shoshone National Forest Draft Plan is out for public review, and without hesitancy, the Forest Service has not recommended any new wilderness in its Preferred Alternative. The agency specifically sites no more "need" for wilderness in its review and Environmental Impact
Statement. To the many who care about the future of their favorite intact back-country hunting spot, backpacking stomping ground, or quiet places to hike on the Shoshone, this oversight is like saying: "Well Cody has one of the highest concentrations of top-quality
western museums and art galleries in the West...so we really don't need any more here."
The need for more wilderness in a few key places like the DuNoir Special Management Unit has roots which go back quite a few years and which the agency should take a careful look at. The DuNoir was recommended twice for wilderness in the 1970s and again in the early draft version of the Forest Plan in 2008.
The oversight is particularly troubling when, according to
the agency's own review of areas which met Forest Service wilderness criteria, the DuNoir, Franc's Peak, Wood River, and Trout Creek all came out high on their list for possible recommendations (2007 Evaluation of Potential Wilderness Areas and updated 2012 Potential
Wilderness Area evaluation).
If the Shoshone -- our nation's very first national forest, which still has a uniquely high concentration of quality intact backcountry remaining for the lower 48 -- cannot be protected through recommending a few key areas for wilderness in this plan, where else is more appropriate? The Shoshone does have a high percentage of designated wilderness, but many national forests in the US have no designated wilderness areas. In comparison to all the designated wilderness areas in the lower 48 (about 90.8 million acres), Wyoming contributes only 3.1 million acres, or roughly 3.4 percent to this total. The Shoshone is a critical ecological border to Yellowstone National Park, and this forest helps feed a $425.9 million economic base in the three-county region from visitor spending (2012 Final Report: An Economic Profile of the
Shoshone National Forest).
It's clear from these numbers that northwestern Wyoming's outfitter, tourism, and small business economy relies heavily on the intact nature of the Shoshone's wild backcountry.
Considering these facts regionally, what the Shoshone offers is truly one of the few remaining ecologically intact systems for future wilderness consideration. By recommending the DuNoir and a few other key areas, the agency would offer the future a potential for Congressional consideration. These recommendations would help keep intact some of Wyoming's -- and the world's -- most treasured wild lands.
This is the time for the Forest Service to act on behalf of the watersheds, wildlife, and backcountry of the Shoshone and the public who care about this unique Forest's future. Citizen involvement is critical to the wild future of the Shoshone National Forest. I urge the public to go to www.wildwyo.org/shoshone_NF to voice their right to be involved in the management of our public lands.