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 - Michael I Rahaman on Thursday, 01 July 2021 09:58

Please let wild places remain truly wild. Thanks.

Please let wild places remain truly wild. Thanks.
Guest - Teresa on Thursday, 01 July 2021 08:39

The decision to deny the La Luz Trail Run race through the Sandia Mountain Wilderness is good to protect the wilderness. Please continue to protect this land. Thank you.

The decision to deny the La Luz Trail Run race through the Sandia Mountain Wilderness is good to protect the wilderness. Please continue to protect this land. Thank you.
Guest - Georgeann Ventola on Wednesday, 30 June 2021 20:54

Yes great decision Happy to hear it we must protect our wilderness

Yes great decision Happy to hear it we must protect our wilderness
Guest - alice i. jena on Wednesday, 30 June 2021 20:43

Please let us preserve the wilderness. Put and end to dog running

Please let us preserve the wilderness. Put and end to dog running
Guest - Wilderness Watch on Thursday, 01 July 2021 09:50

Hi. This is a foot race for humans.

Hi. This is a foot race for humans.
Guest - Patricia M Dobson on Wednesday, 30 June 2021 19:42

Thank you for making the right decision to protect the wilderness and the wildlife that need it to exist!

Thank you for making the right decision to protect the wilderness and the wildlife that need it to exist!
Guest - Gwen Nolte on Wednesday, 30 June 2021 19:25

Wilderness and wildlife should always be the top priority. Thank you for your decision!

Wilderness and wildlife should always be the top priority. Thank you for your decision!
Guest - Janice L Myers on Wednesday, 30 June 2021 19:17

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.

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.
Guest - Alicja Nichols on Wednesday, 30 June 2021 18:30

Very good decision. La Luz race can happen outside the Wilderness Area. It is high time that we value the habitat for wildlife and protect it.

Very good decision. La Luz race can happen outside the Wilderness Area. It is high time that we value the habitat for wildlife and protect it.
Guest - Carol Hartwell on Wednesday, 30 June 2021 18:10

I 1000% support protecting our globally dwindling delicate ecosystems, wildlife and wilderness!!!!

I 1000% support protecting our globally dwindling delicate ecosystems, wildlife and wilderness!!!!
Guest - Kathleen Smith on Wednesday, 30 June 2021 18:07

Great to see someone stand up for wilderness. A big thanks to Forest Service District Ranger Crystal Powell for denying the La Luz permit in accordance with the Wilderness Act. Keep it wild.

Great to see someone stand up for wilderness. A big thanks to Forest Service District Ranger Crystal Powell for denying the La Luz permit in accordance with the Wilderness Act. Keep it wild.
Guest - Dennis on Wednesday, 30 June 2021 18:05

We have to start protecting our environment and the animals in it

We have to start protecting our environment and the animals in it
Guest - Laren Kessler on Wednesday, 30 June 2021 17:55

I agree. Humans don't need to trample (literally and figuratively) all over the wilderness, her wildlife, insects, plants. Find another place to race that doesn't compromise fragile ecosystem and the environment. We do enough damage to this planet and all its inhabitants. It's way past time to start respecting the planet and thinking about the impact of our desires and actions.

I agree. Humans don't need to trample (literally and figuratively) all over the wilderness, her wildlife, insects, plants. Find another place to race that doesn't compromise fragile ecosystem and the environment. We do enough damage to this planet and all its inhabitants. It's way past time to start respecting the planet and thinking about the impact of our desires and actions.
Guest - John Pham on Wednesday, 30 June 2021 17:02

Preserve for future generations!

Preserve for future generations!
Guest - Marcelynn on Wednesday, 30 June 2021 16:52

We need to leave the wilderness alone-let's try to go back to the way God wanted it in the first place-paradise!

We need to leave the wilderness alone-let's try to go back to the way God wanted it in the first place-paradise!
Guest - E. Karpinski on Wednesday, 30 June 2021 16:12

No need to disturb this ecosystem with the noise, pollution, and damage caused by so many humans.

No need to disturb this ecosystem with the noise, pollution, and damage caused by so many humans.
Guest - TC on Wednesday, 30 June 2021 16:10

The decision to not allow the run to occur in the Sandia Mountain Wilderness was a very good one. We need more decisions like this.

The decision to not allow the run to occur in the Sandia Mountain Wilderness was a very good one. We need more decisions like this.
Guest - Patricia Cooney on Wednesday, 30 June 2021 15:18

Stop the BS.. wilderness areas are under constant erosion...time to stand for wilderness areas to be left ALONE!

Stop the BS.. wilderness areas are under constant erosion...time to stand for wilderness areas to be left ALONE!
Guest - joanne groshardt on Wednesday, 30 June 2021 14:53

race somewhere else

race somewhere else
Guest - Andrea Strout on Wednesday, 30 June 2021 14:21

Beautifully written and flawlessly reasoned, this post made me want to weep. I have shared it widely, and it deserves even wider sharing. Mr. Proescholdt's points are on the mark. We need more humility and less--far less--"management" of our remaining wild places.

Beautifully written and flawlessly reasoned, this post made me want to weep. I have shared it widely, and it deserves even wider sharing. Mr. Proescholdt's points are on the mark. We need more humility and less--far less--"management" of our remaining wild places.
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