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 217

Guest - Marielle Marne on Tuesday, 29 June 2021 19:40

We've taken too much pristine land and turned it into concrete jungles. Let's preserve what's left and skip the race.

We've taken too much pristine land and turned it into concrete jungles. Let's preserve what's left and skip the race.
Guest - Valerieb09@hotmail.com on Tuesday, 29 June 2021 19:36

Wildernesses have to protected and repetitive use minimized to preserve these precious spaces.

Wildernesses have to protected and repetitive use minimized to preserve these precious spaces.
Guest - Jessica Peraza on Tuesday, 29 June 2021 19:35

Live and let live. (Mic dropped)

Live and let live. (Mic dropped)
Guest - Jean on Tuesday, 29 June 2021 19:34

Thank you for protecting wilderness areas. We have precious little left in this great country so let's preserve it! This way, all can enjoy it.

Thank you for protecting wilderness areas. We have precious little left in this great country so let's preserve it! This way, all can enjoy it.
Guest - Jericho R on Tuesday, 29 June 2021 19:29

This is a good call. Thank you!

This is a good call. Thank you!
Guest - Barbara on Tuesday, 29 June 2021 19:29

I support this completely. I’m sorry the runners have to miss this, but our forest, beaches, other lands have to be protected

I support this completely. I’m sorry the runners have to miss this, but our forest, beaches, other lands have to be protected
Guest - Dick on Tuesday, 29 June 2021 19:26

The wilderness is the home of the wild things. Running through it would be the same as running through someone else's house without regard. Humans have this idea that everything is theirs for the taking. Humans don't belong in the wilderness.

The wilderness is the home of the wild things. Running through it would be the same as running through someone else's house without regard. Humans have this idea that everything is theirs for the taking. Humans don't belong in the wilderness.
Guest - Stef on Tuesday, 29 June 2021 19:25

Thank you! Keep the wilderness wild.

Thank you! Keep the wilderness wild.
Guest - Xoxenia Harris on Tuesday, 29 June 2021 19:23

Humans must stop trampling all over the planet, the planet and all it's wild places are quickly becoming nonexistent! Run someplace else! The earth and all the living things that inhabit it are not human property! No person would want to be someone or something else's property, especially with the sole purpose of being abused and ultimately killed! So don't do it to anything else!

Humans must stop trampling all over the planet, the planet and all it's wild places are quickly becoming nonexistent! Run someplace else! The earth and all the living things that inhabit it are not human property! No person would want to be someone or something else's property, especially with the sole purpose of being abused and ultimately killed! So don't do it to anything else!
Guest - Barbara Maat on Tuesday, 29 June 2021 19:12

I LOVE this decision. We need more animal lands FREE OF PEOPLE. The wilderness should be an animal place, not acceptable for humans to run their foolish races. Humans dominate this small planet. Humans and wildlife do not mix. The Half Earth Project would be a start......50% of the planet well selected to prohibit humans.

I LOVE this decision. We need more animal lands FREE OF PEOPLE. The wilderness should be an animal place, not acceptable for humans to run their foolish races. Humans dominate this small planet. Humans and wildlife do not mix. The Half Earth Project would be a start......50% of the planet well selected to prohibit humans.
Guest - ANONYMOUS on Tuesday, 29 June 2021 19:12

THANK YOU!!! FINALLYWILDERNESS, AND THE CREATURES WHO, DESPITE HUMAN ACTIVITY, FIGHT TO THRIVE!
WE'VE DESTROYED SO MUCH....THE NATURAL WORLD IS DYING! SORRY, FIND ANOTHER PLACE TO RUN YOUR LITTLE RACE

THANK YOU!!! FINALLYWILDERNESS, AND THE CREATURES WHO, DESPITE HUMAN ACTIVITY, FIGHT TO THRIVE! WE'VE DESTROYED SO MUCH....THE NATURAL WORLD IS DYING! SORRY, FIND ANOTHER PLACE TO RUN YOUR LITTLE RACE:)
Guest - Sue Ewan on Tuesday, 29 June 2021 19:04

I completely agree!!!

I completely agree!!!
Guest - Mona on Tuesday, 29 June 2021 18:59

Wilderness should be protected. A race can be done anywhere, so having a race in a wilderness area is not necessary and is of no benefit to the land

Wilderness should be protected. A race can be done anywhere, so having a race in a wilderness area is not necessary and is of no benefit to the land
Guest - John Delgado on Tuesday, 29 June 2021 18:53

The Forest Service has made the right decision in accordance with the Wilderness Act and agency policies, and there are good reasons. I support that decision as runners and others that engage in such activities can find many other areas that can provide the same challenges they seek. We must continue to keep our Wilderness area as nature has provided.

The Forest Service has made the right decision in accordance with the Wilderness Act and agency policies, and there are good reasons. I support that decision as runners and others that engage in such activities can find many other areas that can provide the same challenges they seek. We must continue to keep our Wilderness area as nature has provided.
Guest - Sharon Wolfsohn on Tuesday, 29 June 2021 18:50

No to the race...we need to stop violating the lands that other inhabitants of this earth need to survive. Enough is enough.

No to the race...we need to stop violating the lands that other inhabitants of this earth need to survive. Enough is enough.
Guest - Al Sarnacki on Tuesday, 29 June 2021 18:48

I agree with this decision.

I agree with this decision.
Guest - Tracy on Tuesday, 29 June 2021 18:30

An event like a race in wilderness can disrupt habitat with noise and extra stress for wildlife, but also could damage habitat more directly with damage to vegetation or impaction of soil. Please leave wilderness alone.

An event like a race in wilderness can disrupt habitat with noise and extra stress for wildlife, but also could damage habitat more directly with damage to vegetation or impaction of soil. Please leave wilderness alone.
Guest - Ron on Tuesday, 29 June 2021 18:29

The wilderness is a gift to of us especially the wildlife.

The wilderness is a gift to of us especially the wildlife.
Guest - Greg (website) on Tuesday, 29 June 2021 18:21

Well done, Wilderness Watch and Forest Service! Wilderness is not place for a race and spectators.

Well done, Wilderness Watch and Forest Service! Wilderness is not place for a race and spectators.
Guest - Cary P Appenzeller on Tuesday, 29 June 2021 18:19

I support the decision.

I support the decision.
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Tuesday, 27 July 2021

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