Wilderness Watch recently urged the Forest Service to let the Pine Valley Wilderness "be" rather than conduct its proposed significant new manipulation project on the Dixie National Forest in southern Utah. The Forest Service is planning the "Grass Valley Watershed Restoration Project" in the Pine Valley Ranger, which includes this beautiful mountain island Wilderness. The project area includes 9,268 acres of the Pine Valley Mountain Wilderness, of which 8,721 acres are proposed for "treatment" by burning. The agency also proposes to log 2,661 acres of roadless areas next to the Wilderness, which could include building temporary roads. Any development in the roadless area could impact the wild character of the adjacent Pine Valley Mountain Wilderness.
In our comments we pointed out that the proposal to burn forest within the Pine Valley Mountain Wilderness is not in keeping with the 1964 Wilderness Act. The Forest Service proposes to burn more than 8,700 acres of Wilderness to, among other reasons, prevent future fires from burning outside the wilderness boundary. Such prescribed burning would manipulate the Wilderness and impose human will and intent on the landscape. Such manipulation is not authorized by the 1964 Wilderness Act, which requires that Wildernesses be unmanipulated by humans and remain "untrammeled by man." The project is also not necessary to administer the area as wilderness and would harm, rather than protect its wilderness character.
If the Forest Service is concerned about fire outside the Wilderness then that’s where it needs to focus its efforts. It is wrong to compromise the wilderness character of the Pine Valley Mountains Wilderness to achieve some non-wilderness purpose.
Wilderness Watch encourages allowing natural, lightning-caused fires to play their ecological and evolutionary role in the Wilderness. The Forest Service proposal in this project represents exactly the kind of manipulation that the architects of the Wilderness Act sought to prevent.
Photo: Chris Barns