Mount Shasta, California

Mount Shasta, California

What to Report

Wilderness Report addresses management decisions that exceed guidelines defined in the Wilderness Act. One by one these decisions contribute to a slow, incremental degradation of the wilderness system e.g., the use of chainsaws when crosscuts would suffice or choosing to use helicopters instead of using pack strings.

Report on anything that you feel impacts wilderness and wilderness values. Often times it is the little day-to-day events that escape notice and yet slowly combine to have a significant impact on wilderness and the visitor’s wilderness experience.

Write a Letter

Letters are recommended over electronic correspondence because they are less easily lost compared to the day-to-day glut of email we all receive every day.

  • Written communication assures information can be shared readily and most importantly, accurately.
  • Consider sending your correspondence in a Priority envelop to give your inquiry greater prominence.
  • Write directly to area’s top manager; Forest Supervisor (FS), Park Superintendent (NPS) or Area Manager (BLM).
  • Briefly and respectfully share your concern and request an answer to one or two specific questions. Phrase your question so that it can be answered specifically and directly.  Try to avoid questions that can be answered with a simple yes or no.
  • Specify that you would appreciate a written response.
  • You may receive a more thoughtful response if you mention that all correspondence related to the issue will be shared with Wilderness Report and may be posted on the WR website.

Tips and Suggestions

Wilderness Report suggests that all communication with resource managers be in writing so there is a clear record of exactly was what said when and by whom. Written communication also allows others to accurately follow your conversation.

  • Go online to find out the name and address of the current Forest Supervisor, Park Superintendent or Area Manager for your area of focus.
  • Save an original copy of everything you mail and all replies you receive.
  • Appreciate that managers are busy people; it may take several weeks to receive a reply but it should not take longer than a month.
  • Recognize and applaud exemplary management whenever possible.

Guidelines to help fill out a Trip Review

 

Route
Where did you go?  Briefly describe the country traversed or trails followed.  How long were you out; was this a day hike or a multi-day trip?

Summary
A brief overview of the wilderness you visited is helpful to readers but also be sure to focus on resource and management issues.  Did you have any interactions with management personnel?  How would you describe your wilderness experience?  Did you observe resource management concerns, encounter permit problems, experience crowding, discover signs of resource damage?

Wilderness or Wild River
For a wilderness area enter the name most commonly used; typically, the name on your map.  For a Wild River use the river name and, when appropriate the section of river visited e.g. Lower Main Salmon or the Clarno to Cottonwood Section of the John Day.

Management Unit
Name of the National Park or local Bureau of Land Management (BLM) or Forest Service management unit e.g., Vale BLM District or Willamette National Forest.

Administrative Location
Location of the management unit’s administrative headquarters e.g., Corvallis, Oregon.

Head of Administrative Unit
Your looking for the name of the person who is the current head of the management unit.  In the National Park Service, this would be the Park Superintendent.  In the Forest Service, it would be the Forest Supervisor and in the Bureau of Land Management it would be the District Manager.

Tips for the graded section of the report

Access
This is can be a bit tricky.  You are looking for signs of resource damage; usually the most obvious are trials that have eroded into gullies due to lack of maintenance.  You might also see signs hikers have been cutting switchbacks or sections of side-hill trail where encroaching brush have forced hikers off the trail creating opportunities for erosion.  Other signs of resource damage include a maze of trails created by overuse or illegal trails cut by hikers or hunters.  Logs or brush blocking the trail may be annoying and undesirable but this is not necessarily resource damage but typically just wilderness being wilderness.

Management
Did the area you visited have a permit system?  Was it administered equably and fairly?  Was there an application fee or use fee involved?  Was the amount charged appropriate?  Did management make any attempts to educate the wilderness visitor about how to minimize their impact on the land during their visit or any other aspects of wilderness management?  Did you experience management personnel engaged in any enforcement actions?  Was their action reasonable and appropriate?

Stewardship
Although management can apply for a special permission to use power tools in wilderness the use of power equipment in wilderness is usually unnecessary and indicates a manager unconcerned about respecting wilderness values.  Using chainsaws to log out trails, power drills to blast rock, housing wilderness staff in permanent structures, resupplying trail crews by helicopter, or using imported gravel, creosoted timbers and filter cloth for trail construction are all examples of management stepping outside the bounds of good wilderness management.

Wilderness
Wilderness managers should not allow permanent outfitter camps or caches, they should work to close wilderness airstrips, and strive to make management decisions that protect wilderness values.  Some examples of practices absolutely not in the best interests of protecting wilderness values include: igniting prescribed burns by helicopter, issuing permits for the use of helicopters to tranquilize and collar elk, authorizing the construction of permanent structures, permitting the use of power tools to reconstruct historic buildings or using power tools for trail maintenance/construction.

Other
Congress defined wilderness as an area where natural systems would be allowed to progress naturally.  That means naturally ignited fires should be allowed to burn and suppression efforts should be limited to those needed to protect neighboring communities.  It also means that management of wildlife like deer and elk for harvest should not occur in wilderness.

Guidelines to help fill out a Issue Report

 

Report Title
Summarize the purpose of your discussion with wilderness management in a few words e.g., trail signage, permit system, resource damage etc.

Summary
Briefly describe the incident, situation, or encounter that prompted you to communicate with the wilderness manager.  Summarize your communications with management, how the matter was resolved, settled or shelved.

Wilderness or Wild River
For a wilderness area enter the name most commonly used; typically, the name on your map.  For a Wild River use the river name and, when appropriate the section of river visited e.g. Lower Main Salmon or the Clarno to Cottonwood Section of the John Day.

Management Unit
Name of the National Park or local Bureau of Land Management (BLM) or Forest Service management unit e.g., Vale BLM District or Willamette National Forest.

Administrative Location
Location of the management unit’s administrative headquarters e.g., Corvallis, Oregon.

Head of Administrative Unit
Your looking for the name of the person who is the current head of the management unit.  In the National Park Service, this would be the Park Superintendent.  In the Forest Service, it would be the Forest Supervisor and in the Bureau of Land Management it would be the District Manager.

Tips for the graded section of the report

Responsiveness
Did you receive a response to your first inquiry?  If so, and you got your response in under three weeks, that’s pretty good–probably worth an A.  If you got a response in four to six weeks that probably rates a B or C.   Was a follow-up required; did you have to write a second time?  If so, did you get a reply right away?  If you did that might still be worth a C.  Got nothing; no response whatsoever? That’s about as unresponsive as you can get; that manager deserves an F.

Completeness
Were your questions answered fully and completely?  All of them? If they were you can’t ask for anything more than that; give that manager an A.  On the other end of the scale, if you didn't get a response to your inquiry at all; they have probably earned an F in both responsiveness and completeness. Typically, you will receive a response somewhere in between these two extremes; the reply might only touch briefly on the matter you’re asking about but not fully or completely address it. The number of questions you have left unanswered should help you decide the appropriate grade.

Stewardship
The use of power equipment in wilderness is generally unnecessary and a manager who frequently defaults to the use of power equipment to achieve management objectives is not a person particularly concerned about protecting wilderness values.  Using chain saws to log out trails, power drills to blast rock, housing wilderness staff in permanent structures, resupplying trail crews by helicopter, using imported gravel, creosoted timbers and filter cloth for trail construction are all examples of management stepping outside the bounds of good wilderness stewardship.

The stewardship category gives you the opportunity to read between the lines.  I once received a complete, timely and well written response from a manager defending use of chain saws in wilderness, as well as the use of helicopters, for the accomplishment of routine wilderness maintenance projects.  Since the Wilderness Act prohibits the use of motorized equipment, I choose to give him and F in wilderness stewardship.

Wilderness
How well is this manager protecting the wilderness resource? Wilderness managers should not allow permanent outfitter camps or caches, they should work to close wilderness airstrips, and strive to make management decisions that protect wilderness values. Some examples of practices absolutely not in the best interests of protecting wilderness values include: igniting prescribed burns by helicopter, issuing permits for the use of helicopters to tranquilize and collar elk, authorizing the construction of permanent structures in wilderness, permitting the use of power tools to reconstruct historic buildings or using power tools for trail maintenance/construction.