This letter is in response to an editorial in the Sun Advocate by Tom McCourt in which McCourt disagreed with Emery County officials decision to pursue a land use bill. Alan Peterson writes in response to the reasoning that wilderness is unconstitutional because it is contrary to the Americans with Disabilities Act which states Americans with disabilities should be included in all aspects of American life and the ongoing discussion/debate over Emery County's interest in proposing a Washington County style lands bill including Wilderness. Editor: Patsy Stoddard
I have used the ADA reasoning in comments before. For example, when commenting on the Clinton Monument (Grand Staircase Escalante) and the response I got from the BLM was that, "not all public land had to be accessible to the handicapped, as long as some of the land was accessible then the need had been met".
As for utilizing the wheelchair bound. Do I know anyone in a wheelchair? We'll start with Richard Beardall who formed the group ADDA which is for handicapped people who want access to public lands. We (ADDA) held a protest ride at Hidden Splendor Mine a couple years ago. Richard (with his wheelchair strapped to the rear rack of his ATV), Monte Swasey (with his oxygen tank strapped to the front of his ATV), John Anderson (holder of active mining claims in The Pasture across the Muddy) and a few others drove past the BLM WSA barricade (after we moved it out of the way) and drove to the banks of the Muddy River, turned around and returned to the cheers of the crowd who had braved the rain and mud to witness the Protest. What came of that? Absolutely nothing but the self-satisfaction of those of us who were there. Emery County Commissioner Gary Kofford was there, Chad Booth of At Your Leisure was there, a reporter from the Salt Lake Tribune was there, the Emery County Progress was there, but the television news stations didn't come as they didn't consider it to be news worthy.
As for the current WSA lands, the wheelchairs are not allowed nor have they been for 26 years within a WSA. All other public land is still open to further "inventory" and further "study" as long as the Wilderness debate is open. In other words, as long as the issue is still being "studied" or "debated"......the land is managed as wilderness. We haven't won the battle for 26 years, we lost the battle for the WSA lands 26 years ago. We'll continue to lose more land as the "studies" and "inventories" continue. The America's Red Rock Wilderness Act has grown from under five million to over nine million acres in Utah. The process under Babbitt/Clinton "found" millions of additional acres that BLM claims to have "wilderness characteristics". All of those lands are now being recognized and managed under "special" guidelines through RMP updates in each of the Field Offices in Utah.
The only way to stop the growth of the cancer (WSA & WC land) is to isolate the tumor (Congressionally designated WSA) and remove it so it can't continue to spread into the surrounding healthy tissue (remaining multiple use lands).
Thus, I am in favor of isolating the tumor and having Congress bring an end to the spread of the Wilderness cancer.
SUWA will continue to put forth bills asking for more wilderness, this is a certainty. But, SUWA can't designate wilderness....only Congress can do that. I believe that once Congress has designated "x" number of acres in Emery County as wilderness, they won't re-visit the issue. They will be able to say that they have completed their work in Emery County. They still have the rest of Utah and all of the other public land states to deal with this issue. It's a gamble that I'm willing to take. To each his own opinion and I fully realize that I'm in the minority on this. But, 25+ years in the trenches of this battle have taught me some things and one of those is this......If I could turn the hands of time back to 1983, I would have accepted the baseline acreage of WSA and ended the debate. At this time I will ask Emery County to demand the four routes within Sid's Mtn WSA to be cherry stemmed out of the WSA. I would ask that all other public lands be given "hard release" and officially end the "study" or "inventory" to find more and more land suitable for wilderness designation.
We lost the battle for the current WSA lands 26 years ago. We continue to lose in court, we continue to lose in the RMP process, we continue to lose with the public.
Congress needs to make a Wilderness designation to stop the spread of this horrible disease. We may lose a leg, we may lose an arm but the alternative is terminal. I will also go on record that I am in favor of some Congressionally designated Wilderness in Emery County. The lands that God made as wilderness and truly meet the criteria of the 1964 Wilderness Act should be designated. But, the majority of lands that SUWA is suggesting don't meet that criteria.
Most of SUWA's Red Rock wilderness lands contains, bulldozed roads, cabins, trails, mines, ponds, structures, powerlines, fences, etc. Those lands should be returned to multiple use status and eliminated from the wilderness debate.