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 - Jo Anna Hebberger, PhD on Wednesday, 30 June 2021 09:22

I totally agree with the decision to deny the LaLuz cross-country race access to this wilderness area. Wilderness should remain just that - wilderness. We have lost too many of our wilderness areas and natural places. The reasons given for preserving the wilderness are right-on. Races can be run elsewhere, the wilderness is not the place for them.

I totally agree with the decision to deny the LaLuz cross-country race access to this wilderness area. Wilderness should remain just that - wilderness. We have lost too many of our wilderness areas and natural places. The reasons given for preserving the wilderness are right-on. Races can be run elsewhere, the wilderness is not the place for them.
Guest - Jerry Swarzman on Wednesday, 30 June 2021 09:16

Do the right thing for wildlife and end the La Luz run!

Do the right thing for wildlife and end the La Luz run!
Guest - Diana T. Black on Wednesday, 30 June 2021 09:05

I fully support this decision... thank you Custodians... wilderness should remain off-limits to human activity... it is not for use as a human playground

I fully support this decision... thank you Custodians... wilderness should remain off-limits to human activity... it is not for use as a human playground
Guest - Carl B. Lechner on Wednesday, 30 June 2021 08:58

For many, pushing for exceptions is a compulsive challenge. Such exception seekers readily overlook the obvious that staying with the rules can actually be more important than their receiving an exception. The reasons behind the wilderness protections are widely knowable. A history of abuses of our greater public lands makes abiding by the letter of the Wilderness Act even more important than it might seem. Surely the La Luz trail runners can find a stimulating alternative setting to the Sandia Mountains and at the same time see the rationale behind denying their requested exception.

For many, pushing for exceptions is a compulsive challenge. Such exception seekers readily overlook the obvious that staying with the rules can actually be more important than their receiving an exception. The reasons behind the wilderness protections are widely knowable. A history of abuses of our greater public lands makes abiding by the letter of the Wilderness Act even more important than it might seem. Surely the La Luz trail runners can find a stimulating alternative setting to the Sandia Mountains and at the same time see the rationale behind denying their requested exception.
Guest - Bonnie Arbuckle on Wednesday, 30 June 2021 08:43

Preserving our precious wilderness is far more important than what runners want.

Preserving our precious wilderness is far more important than what runners want.
Guest - kristin carstarphen on Wednesday, 30 June 2021 08:38

Please protect the wilderness!

Please protect the wilderness!
Guest - Rebecca Richardson on Wednesday, 30 June 2021 08:01

I heartily support preservation of the wilds we still protect. It's tough to turn runners down when they want a place to run, BUT these days we all must make sacrifices necessary to preserve the planet. Carry on!

I heartily support preservation of the wilds we still protect. It's tough to turn runners down when they want a place to run, BUT these days we all must make sacrifices necessary to preserve the planet. Carry on!
Guest - Guest on Wednesday, 30 June 2021 07:58

Thank you for helping the environment and the wildlife -- You are a true steward of the area.

Thank you for helping the environment and the wildlife -- You are a true steward of the area.
Guest - Stephanie Gamache on Wednesday, 30 June 2021 07:51

I agree. It is getting harder to find any place to hike when peace and quiet is desired. There is an area I have been hiking for years for these reasons and the last time I went, I was surprised by 20 people running all around me in a race that had never been held there before. This area is also rich in wildflowers found in only a few places in the world - many of which had been trampled. We need to leave some areas wild for many valid reasons.

I agree. It is getting harder to find any place to hike when peace and quiet is desired. There is an area I have been hiking for years for these reasons and the last time I went, I was surprised by 20 people running all around me in a race that had never been held there before. This area is also rich in wildflowers found in only a few places in the world - many of which had been trampled. We need to leave some areas wild for many valid reasons.
Guest - Ron (website) on Wednesday, 30 June 2021 07:45

Sound reasoning, well-presented.

Sound reasoning, well-presented.
Guest - carol on Wednesday, 30 June 2021 07:45

Thank you so much for doing the right thing! You are a shining example of how to be a champion for the planet.

Thank you so much for doing the right thing! You are a shining example of how to be a champion for the planet.
Guest - David Day on Wednesday, 30 June 2021 07:45

As a citizen of Albuquerque where this wilderness exists, I Thank you for protecting this wilderness. Sandia Pueblo people originally controlled this as part of their sacred homeland and it was taken from them, so the wilderness designation helps re-balance their respect for the place.

As a citizen of Albuquerque where this wilderness exists, I Thank you for protecting this wilderness. Sandia Pueblo people originally controlled this as part of their sacred homeland and it was taken from them, so the wilderness designation helps re-balance their respect for the place.
Guest - Mark Gowan on Wednesday, 30 June 2021 07:35

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.

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.
Guest - Laurie Denis on Wednesday, 30 June 2021 07:28

Keep the wilderness wild, it's not ours to destroy.

Keep the wilderness wild, it's not ours to destroy.
Guest - Sa Re on Wednesday, 30 June 2021 07:18

Yay.
This is a great decision! This is wilderness and needs to be respected as such. No races, no bikes, no motorized vehicles, no off trails either. Humans are NOT RESPECTING THE TINY BIT OF WILDERNESS THAT IS THERE.

Yay. This is a great decision! This is wilderness and needs to be respected as such. No races, no bikes, no motorized vehicles, no off trails either. Humans are NOT RESPECTING THE TINY BIT OF WILDERNESS THAT IS THERE.
Guest - Robyn on Wednesday, 30 June 2021 07:05

COEXIST. PLEASE!!

COEXIST. PLEASE!!
Guest - Rickey on Wednesday, 30 June 2021 07:03

Environment above all else, always!

Environment above all else, always!
Guest - Suditi on Wednesday, 30 June 2021 06:41

As a wildlife ecologist (MS UF 1989), I studied the impacts of human activity on forests surrounded by development. Habitat fragmentation begins with one road and always spreads. Wilderness areas are the last true refuge from human activity and should be treasured as such. A race of humans through a wilderness area? Really? Thank you U.S. Forest Service!

As a wildlife ecologist (MS UF 1989), I studied the impacts of human activity on forests surrounded by development. Habitat fragmentation begins with one road and always spreads. Wilderness areas are the last true refuge from human activity and should be treasured as such. A race of humans through a wilderness area? Really? Thank you U.S. Forest Service!
Guest - Carolina on Wednesday, 30 June 2021 06:32

I understand the disappointment of the runners but common sense must prevail. Having that many people running through a wilderness area will destroy habitat and flora and significantly impact local wildlife. We have to get used to not everything being there for our personal recreation

I understand the disappointment of the runners but common sense must prevail. Having that many people running through a wilderness area will destroy habitat and flora and significantly impact local wildlife. We have to get used to not everything being there for our personal recreation
Guest - constance lorig on Wednesday, 30 June 2021 06:18

I agree with the decision to end the La Luz run, as disappointing as that is to the organizers and runners. Unfortunately the Earth is finite and we must leave space for the natural landscape and its creatures.

I agree with the decision to end the La Luz run, as disappointing as that is to the organizers and runners. Unfortunately the Earth is finite and we must leave space for the natural landscape and its creatures.
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