by E&E Legal Senior Policy Fellow Greg Walcher
As Appearing in The Daily Sentinel
Asking the boss for a decision can sometimes be frustrating, especially if the answer is “Let me think about it.” OK, you can come back tomorrow, but if you get the same answer day after day, you might eventually conclude that he doesn’t want to make a decision.
That is also the reality when Congress refuses to act, and it frustrates enormous regions of the country when their indecision involves public land management.
Consider the process for declaring wilderness areas, our country’s ultimate preservation tool. Ever since Congress passed the Wilderness Act of 1964, there has been controversy about which public lands should be wilderness. Wilderness areas are not available for leasing for any purpose (grazing, logging, mining, oil and gas), nor for off-road recreation, nor any public access except by hiking and horseback. All motorized or mechanical access, including bicycles, is prohibited. These unique and special places are to be kept forever in an original pristine condition, defined almost poetically in the law 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.”