Ending La Luz run safeguards wilderness

kevinproescholdt 02 18 13 201by Kevin Proescholdt

 

The recent decision by Forest Service District Ranger Crystal Powell to deny the permit to run the La Luz Trail Run race through the Sandia Mountain Wilderness may be understandably unpopular with some runners and race organizers (“La Luz race hits end of trail as Forest Service denies permit,” Albuquerque Journal, May 15). But this decision is the proper one to protect the wilderness character of this iconic area.

Wilderness is the most protective land designation in the United States. My organization, Wilderness Watch, works to safeguard Wildernesses around the country. We often challenge Forest Service decisions and occasionally take the agency to court when it violates the 1964 Wilderness Act. But in the case of the La Luz race permit, the Forest Service has made the right decision in accordance with the Wilderness Act and agency policies, and there are good reasons for runners and others to support this decision.

Wildernesses contain a huge array of values, many of them intangible like protecting opportunities for solitude, and some of them more tangible like protecting wildlife and increasingly scarce habitat. These values go far deeper than physical impacts to trails or whether litter is left behind. Wildernesses are emblematic of our human recognition of their inherent wildness, and symbolic of our society’s need for restraint and humility in dealing with them. By designating an area as wilderness, we recognize that area’s right to function on its own, without the active management and manipulation used on other federal lands and without the types of intensive intrusions prominent there.

Commercial activities and competitive races degrade a wilderness’s wild character. They detract from an area’s wildness and make an area more like the lands overrun by civilization, rather than “in contrast with those areas where man and his works dominate the landscape,” as the Wilderness Act states. That’s why the framers of the Wilderness Act and Congress included a prohibition on commercial activities in designated wildernesses, with only a very narrow exception for some outfitting and guiding activities. The Forest Service’s wilderness regulations also contain prohibitions on commercial activities and competitive events.

I sympathize with organizers of the trail run, particularly when the race has occurred since before Congress designated the Sandia Mountain Wilderness. But all across the country are examples of activities once allowed in areas that have needed to end after an area was designated as wilderness, all to better protect the wild character of these special lands for future generations and for wildlife, which are continually squeezed into smaller and smaller pockets of secure habitat. In Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW), for example, the 1978 BWCAW Act ended many activities, including a competitive international canoe race, to better protect the area.

Other options likely exist for the race. A few years back, the organizers of a winter sled dog race wanted to route its race through a portion of the BWCAW. The Forest Service appropriately rejected that proposed route, and the race organizers eventually selected a different route. That outcome­—finding another venue or route outside of designated wilderness—may also well work for La Luz Trail Run, a far better outcome than weakening protections for the Sandia Mountain Wilderness.

 

Editor's note: Kevin's piece ran in the Albuquerque Journal on 5/31: https://www.abqjournal.com/2395565/ending-la-lu-zrun-safeguards-wilderness-2.html
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kevin proescholdt

Kevin Proescholdt is the conservation director for Wilderness Watch, a national wilderness conservation organization headquartered in Missoula and focused on the protection of the National Wilderness Preservation System.

 

Lost in the Winds
The Boundary Waters
 

Comments 219

Guest - L.D.Zafar on Wednesday, 28 July 2021 19:54

I’m glad someone is standing up to protect the character of our beautiful wild places! Don’t care if the runners get pissed, how wood you like someone running through your living room? Well the wild life that call these places home don’t like it either. Go run in the street or on a track.

I’m glad someone is standing up to protect the character of our beautiful wild places! Don’t care if the runners get pissed, how wood you like someone running through your living room? Well the wild life that call these places home don’t like it either. Go run in the street or on a track.
Guest - robert moore on Thursday, 08 July 2021 05:35

some WILD places need to remain UNTOUCHED by humans!!!!

some WILD places need to remain UNTOUCHED by humans!!!!
Guest - Maurice on Wednesday, 07 July 2021 13:13

Wildernesses contain a huge array of values, many of them intangible like protecting opportunities for solitude, and some of them more tangible like protecting wildlife and increasingly scarce habitat. These values go far deeper than physical impacts to trails or whether litter is left behind. Wildernesses are emblematic of our human recognition of their inherent wildness, and symbolic of our society’s need for restraint and humility in dealing with them. By designating an area as wilderness, we recognize that area’s right to function on its own, without the active management and manipulation used on other federal lands and without the types of intensive intrusions prominent there.

Wildernesses contain a huge array of values, many of them intangible like protecting opportunities for solitude, and some of them more tangible like protecting wildlife and increasingly scarce habitat. These values go far deeper than physical impacts to trails or whether litter is left behind. Wildernesses are emblematic of our human recognition of their inherent wildness, and symbolic of our society’s need for restraint and humility in dealing with them. By designating an area as wilderness, we recognize that area’s right to function on its own, without the active management and manipulation used on other federal lands and without the types of intensive intrusions prominent there.
Guest - Angela Munoz on Tuesday, 06 July 2021 15:55

I applaud this decision to protect our fragile wilderness areas. Thank you for your hard work and commitment!

I applaud this decision to protect our fragile wilderness areas. Thank you for your hard work and commitment!
Guest - Carole Maclure on Monday, 05 July 2021 20:44

Please continue to support keeping our wilderness areas “wild” and off limits for actions or uses that impair these ecosystems. Keep vanity or commercial enterprises out of these special areas.
Thank you for consideration of these comments.

Please continue to support keeping our wilderness areas “wild” and off limits for actions or uses that impair these ecosystems. Keep vanity or commercial enterprises out of these special areas. Thank you for consideration of these comments.
Guest - Stephen Hackney (website) on Monday, 05 July 2021 09:36

Long live our wilderness areas...! There are many trails already suited for a foot race and spread across our entire country. Many national parks are well suited with extensive trails and could be a new venue for such races...!

Long live our wilderness areas...! There are many trails already suited for a foot race and spread across our entire country. Many national parks are well suited with extensive trails and could be a new venue for such races...!
Guest - Jan Le Pouvoir on Saturday, 03 July 2021 23:45

A trail ultrarunner for forty years now, and I completely agree with the denial of a permit for La Luz. Keep the “wild” in Wilderness, and commercialization OUT. ?

A trail ultrarunner for forty years now, and I completely agree with the denial of a permit for La Luz. Keep the “wild” in Wilderness, and commercialization OUT. ?
Guest - a morris on Saturday, 03 July 2021 09:48

There are many other locations to host a long run, there is no necessity to have it in a wilderness area - particularly during an era when all of our ecosystems are under extreme pressures from myriad causes. Running - something humans evolved to do out of biological and survival necessity - should not subsequently use that activity to threaten other species' lands - species who are also trying to live out their own evolutionary tracks.

There are many other locations to host a long run, there is no necessity to have it in a wilderness area - particularly during an era when all of our ecosystems are under extreme pressures from myriad causes. Running - something humans evolved to do out of biological and survival necessity - should not subsequently use that activity to threaten other species' lands - species who are also trying to live out their own evolutionary tracks.
Guest - Carol on Friday, 02 July 2021 23:37

It's time to reach out to people who are less interested in the many values of wilderness and educate them about the savings of taxpayer dollars when land is managed as wilderness instead of activities that create the need for more intensive management and cost more. Changing this race route to lands already more intensively managed will keep the costs lower for taxpayers.

It's time to reach out to people who are less interested in the many values of wilderness and educate them about the savings of taxpayer dollars when land is managed as wilderness instead of activities that create the need for more intensive management and cost more. Changing this race route to lands already more intensively managed will keep the costs lower for taxpayers.
Guest - Daniel Bembenek on Friday, 02 July 2021 16:08

GOOD CALL!!!!

GOOD CALL!!!!
Guest - Lu Shoberg on Thursday, 01 July 2021 23:28

Lots of other places to run a race.

Lots of other places to run a race.
Guest - David Dyer on Thursday, 01 July 2021 20:13

Happy to see the wilderness preserved and protected.

Happy to see the wilderness preserved and protected.
Guest - Sandra Cobb on Thursday, 01 July 2021 16:43

America needs every square inch of wilderness to combat climate change. All commercialization must be excluded to protect this valuable area.

America needs every square inch of wilderness to combat climate change. All commercialization must be excluded to protect this valuable area.
Guest - Carol Joan Patterson on Thursday, 01 July 2021 15:03

Agree with the above. We need to always consider the effect our actions will have on wild beings, and be as careful as we can. It is time that nature was put first. In truth, putting nature first outs all of us first.

Agree with the above. We need to always consider the effect our actions will have on wild beings, and be as careful as we can. It is time that nature was put first. In truth, putting nature first outs all of us first.
Guest - Lynell Heaps on Thursday, 01 July 2021 14:31

Keep our wilderness wild!! Stop the commercialization of our Public Lands.

Keep our wilderness wild!! Stop the commercialization of our Public Lands.
Guest - Barb Crumpacker on Thursday, 01 July 2021 14:18

I support the denial of a permit for the La Luz run. It is very important to me that we protect wilderness areas at all costs. Runs can be done anywhere, we don't need to empower this behavior.

I support the denial of a permit for the La Luz run. It is very important to me that we protect wilderness areas at all costs. Runs can be done anywhere, we don't need to empower this behavior.
Guest - Christy on Thursday, 01 July 2021 13:57

We need stronger protections for our natural habitats, and less protection for corporations

We need stronger protections for our natural habitats, and less protection for corporations
Guest - Paul on Thursday, 01 July 2021 12:28

I've been running for most of my life, and have run in many wonderful places. Solo running is much different than an organized race. This decision is a good one.

I've been running for most of my life, and have run in many wonderful places. Solo running is much different than an organized race. This decision is a good one.
Guest - Jesse on Thursday, 01 July 2021 11:06

Thank you!
Wilderness wildlife and habitat needs protection from the constant pressures of human activity. It's also important to preserve wilderness for the enjoyment of people who desire a more contemplative, natural, non-invasive experience. Many areas have become over-run with bikes, noise and light pollution, large groups, dog and human waste and debris. There are many other areas where competitive sports enthusiasts are able to utilize forest lands. Great job keeping Wilderness Wild!!

Thank you! Wilderness wildlife and habitat needs protection from the constant pressures of human activity. It's also important to preserve wilderness for the enjoyment of people who desire a more contemplative, natural, non-invasive experience. Many areas have become over-run with bikes, noise and light pollution, large groups, dog and human waste and debris. There are many other areas where competitive sports enthusiasts are able to utilize forest lands. Great job keeping Wilderness Wild!!
Guest - L.D.Zafar on Wednesday, 28 July 2021 19:56

Nicely said!

Nicely said!:)
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