Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia on June 16, 1974 · Page 103
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Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia · Page 103

Charleston, West Virginia
Issue Date:
Sunday, June 16, 1974
Page 103
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Page 103 article text (OCR)

1, Pack train negotiates switchhark on Trotter trail in Gila Wilderness. IS. M. the Mogollon and Black Range mountains in southwest New Mexico were so wild and unsullied by man that they should be pres-' erved as a sanctuary. They were to be left changeless: 750.000 acres where logging, mining, roadbuilding and other commercial activities were prohibited; where man could enter only on foot or on horseback, jand only to camp and occasionally to hunt. In the years after 1924, more virgin wilderness was set aside by the government in various; parts of the country, until today there are 10 million acres of natural museum.- They display America as it existed before European discovery and settlement. But as it marks a 50th birthday/the wilderness concept is under review -some would say under attack. At issue is how much land finally should be declared wilderness and set aside by Congress. On one side of the bitter debate are the environmentalist - the Sierra Club, Wilderness Society and others. The wilderness sanctuaries should be increased five or six fold-to 50 million or 60 million'acres, they say. and this is the last opportunity to do so. Their argument is that '· ^--Sitoilni /o'j'Ujr'. ~ V S State Magazine; June 16,1974 millions of acres of U.S. government land are. being exploited so quickly that soon there won't be additional unr .: touched wilderness left to preserve. Opposed are those who see America's continued power and prestige as stemming from the land. The American Mining Congress, National Forest Products Assn. and others resist most plans to greatly increase the number of acres of government land protected by law from logging and mining. A materials-poor America can't afford the grandoise luxury that the preservationists demand, they argue. * The narrow trail dropped from the rocky ridge of pi- non and juniper into Little Bear Canyon, a winding gorge whose grey c l i f f s barely allowed a man and horse to pass. The feared Apache fought to keep the Mogollons and Black Range 80 years ago, but lost. Stealthy braves no longer wait atop ledges to surprise an unwary mountain man or rancher. Little Bear merged with the Gila River's middle fork, a gentle stream burbling over moss-covered stones and shaded by stately cottonwoods and box elders. The canyon carved from the soft volcanic rock widened-, but the reddish cliffs reached higher, climbing, climbing to spires and towers 600 feet high. Wind, rain, snow and sun have carved the shear cliff tops into a bevy of stone animals -- as limited as the imagination -that stare down in serene disinterest. , Wilderness is different to each who experiences it. But for all, it is premised upon leaving'civilization behond, save for a few necessities carried in a backpack or on a mule. By law, there can be no roads, motorized vehicles or improvements of any kinds in the 10 million acres in various parts of the country set aside as wilderness sanctuary. It must remain untrammeled, a place where man visits but does not remain. Some enter wilderness for solace, to escape incessant, discordant notes of onrushing civilization. Slipping a transistor radio into a pack is definitely bad form. Others search in the wilderness for a vanished America; for the pristine wilderness in which historian Frederick Jackson Turner saw the genesis of Amer- ican democracy. »· Back in Washington, wilderness sometimes seems an abstraction. It is reduced . to House and Senate' bill numbers and black lines drawn on maps, setting out boundaries. In 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Wilderness-Act, creating a National Wilderness Preservation System. It increased the protection for the 10 million acres of untouched sanctuary set aside by the federal government since 1924. The Forest Service and the Interior Department were instructed, under a provision in the new law, to survey government lands for potential additions to the wilderness system. The federal agencies initially identified more than 80 million acres with wilderness potential. The squabbling began as the agencies eliminated those tracts not meeting the Wilderness Act's strict definition of wilderness. Potential wilderness, the law states, must be an area "where the earth and its community life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain." Wilderness proposals now before Congress would add 9.4 million acres in 72 areas to the 10 million acres now set aside. Environmentalists want an additional 12 million acres set aside immediately, instead of just 9.4 million. Federal agencies have another 29 million acres under study for possible presentation to Congress later as wilderness sanctuaries. The environmentalists argue that 53 million acres should be under study and thus accorded the temporary protection from exploitation such study provides. Their argument meets with strong opposition from mining, timber, grazing and other interests who propose alternative . uses for the lands. »· Sweat-soaked men wrestle heavy machines in a dark mine depicted in a mural in the lobby of the American Mining Congress office in Washington. The president of the congress, J. Allen Overton, a courtly West Virginian educated in the law, paced agitatedly behind his desk, often jabbing a finger at a visitor for emphasis. "We are a minerals-deficient nation with forecasts of becoming more so," he thundered, waving an Interior Department prediction in which America's beckoning materials crisis is outlined mineral by mineral. "There is only one place where you can mine copper and zinc, iron and tin, and that's where the Good Lord in his gracious bounty put them," Overton said. "The first use of the land was to be production of minerals, but under good stewardship. "Good stewardship is not locking the land up." Larry Crandell, the son of a government hunter in Colorado, counters such arguments. "It's not as if we're going to destroy these mineral deposits if they are in a wilderness," he said. Crandell lobbies for wilderness from a Wilderness Society office two blocks from the White House. Society membership, with $10-a-year dues, has doubled in the last four years to 100,000 members, Crandell said. "If Congress creates a wilderness and then a national emergency comes up, the minerals are there. Congress can change the law," Crandell explained. · The walls are richly paneled with wood at the National Forest Products Assn. headquarters. Small embossed tags identify each t . . ( Tutu to, Page 28m ·CHARLESTON, W. VA:27m

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