Gila Livestock Growers Association
PO Box 111
Winston NM 87943
On March 5 in Silver City New Mexico, a rally organized by the new group, Keep Our Forest Open www.keepourforestopen.org drew over 700 people, both citizens and elected representatives from throughout the state to voice their opposition to planned road closures and limiting of camping and hunting opportunities on the Gila Forest.
Still, the mainstream media focused the majority of their efforts in covering the rally held the previous day at Gila Hike and Bike, a private business in Silver City. A rally to support of the plan to seriously limit access to the Gila National Forest. Attending that earlier support rally, were far less than a hundred people, even after counting game commissioner Dutch Salmon and at least two dogs.
Why is the press so determined to pursue the agenda of the Environmental movement? The public is often not given the full story on events due to this strong tendency to elevate the wishes of government agencies or the small but vociferous environmental community over the interest of the general public. Here is the story on the innocuously named, Travel management plan.
The USFS proposed action, alternative G, will drastically limit where people can drive in the Gila Forest, and worse, will eliminate 93 percent of the streamside dispersed camping opportunities. This “crowding” of campers and hunters into designated camping areas will contribute to erosion problems not currently caused by dispersed widespread camping. It will also severely limit options for those who want to experience a restful and quiet forest experience. This is not analyzed in the TMP draft document.
Limited camping areas will severely impact other legitimate multiple uses that are occurring simultaneously on the forest. For instance, having 8 camps in a canyon instead of the normal 1-2 will cause stress to livestock and wildlife from the larger human presence. This will move animals into more confined areas with less human presence. Possibly even into that 93 percent of stream sides where camping isn’t allowed. This domino affect will create difficulty keeping grazing utilization under required standards and would competition between livestock and wildlife and put both in closer proximity to predators at water sites.
There is no doubt, there will be less public access to the forest if this goes through. Every visitor to NFS lands needs motor transportation to pursue his/her activity. The number of visitors who absolutely wish to avoid all motorized activities is tiny, and that number is reflected in the small number of recorded Wilderness visits compared to general forest access visits. When supporters tell you this is a compromise what they really mean is, we have a ton of wilderness opportunities we currently do not use much, but we want more, because our moral value judgment is that vehicle access is bad, so you the public, should have less of it. That is what is important to those supporters that you the public have less every time, not that compromise and equity is reached.
It doesn’t help that the USFS has removed as a priority, road maintenance choosing to focus instead on wild-land fire fighting. Budgets are limited in a strained economy but with more uses removed, reduction in multiple use generated jobs and careers are creating less production revenue for the USFS. The answer to road maintenance is not shutting more uses down but opening more up. We need more timber production, more livestock production, more recreational and hunting access opportunities. That will put more money into the local economy and in turn, more into the coffers of the agencies.
The agency instead has placed itself above Congress by attempting to create more contiguous roadless areas. It is not the agency's job to eliminate and limit multiple uses from forested areas. It is congresses job. Wilderness areas were created through the Wilderness Act through the intent of congress.
The Gila has 700,000 acres of designated wilderness for those who wish to escape the sights and sounds of vehicle recreational access, or who wish to experience a primitive hunt. To attempt to use other laws such as NEPA to create more Wilderness or to establish de-facto wilderness as is occurring in this plan, violates the intent of congress. Congress never intended the USFS to expand and create wilderness through administrative procedure. The so called Travel Management Planning process is currently ongoing in all forested regions in the United States and each plan bears close scrutiny.
Multiple use is currently the USFS prime directive. Until Congress changes that, and declares that all NFS units should seek to
create roadless and Wilderness-like characteristics, the agency is bound by law to support diversity and multiple use, and the
production of goods and services for human use.
Wednesday, March 9, 2011