The 1960’s and 1970’s were really a time of change in our country. In these two decades the foundation was laid for many of the pieces of legislation that still govern how we manage our land, water, air, and natural resources. Among these acts include the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, Endangered Species Act, and even the first Earth Day occurred during this time period.
So why am I talking about this? Well, in all of my education in environmental science there was one act that I had never heard of: The Wilderness Act. I’ve been in wilderness areas but had not fully understood what that meant until orientation week at Mt. Adams Institute, and seeing it implemented at my site location with the U.S. Forest Service at the Cle Elum Ranger District.
In short, the Wilderness Act is defined by being an area that is “recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain”. The wilderness is designated as an area for solitude and to be an area that is preserved and “the imprint of man’s work substantially unnoticeable”. A key component that I want to focus on is the portion where it states essentially that there is to be no use of motorized equipment.
No motorized or loud machines in wilderness areas, really? Why? I mean it only takes a short amount of time to cut up a log with a chainsaw why not just do it that way and save some time? These are some of the thoughts I had about the wilderness, I got the solitude piece and all that but does it really hurt to use a chainsaw real quick? The thing is, that’s not the point.
My “aha” moment came when I took crosscut saw training. I’d never used a crosscut saw before, never even held one. Honestly my assumptions were that it was going to be really hard, tiresome, and just be sort of miserable after a couple logs, BUT I like hard work and a good challenge. The thing about it was that I was mostly wrong; I mean it is tiresome and challenging but it was probably one of my best days I’ve had since becoming a wilderness trail crew member. It’s hard to put into words, but the connection between a designated area of wilderness and using such a primitive tool to manage these wilderness areas really brings the entire concept together. It changed how I thought and instead of why does it matter? Is it a really big deal? I feel as though if we were to use chainsaws it completely crumbles the foundation of what these wilderness areas stand for.
As for my crew and me, the season is really just now starting to get going full force. Our first long hitch of 8 days begins here in a few days and I couldn’t be more excited to get further out into the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. I’m looking forward to all of the challenges ahead and am thankful I have such a great team to share these challenges with.