House Committee on Natural Resources votes to gut the Wilderness Act

  A stealth attack on the Wilderness Act comes in the form of H.R. 3668, the Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) Act, introduced by Rep. Jeff Duncan of South Carolina. It would affect every wilderness in the nation. On September 15, 2017 the SHARE Act was passed by the Committee on Natural Resources and sent to the full House of Representatives.

By nearly unanimous vote, Congress passed the 1964 Wilderness Act in order to protect America’s wildest landscapes. The law describes wilderness as “an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man… retaining its primeval character and influence, without permanent improvements or human habitation, which is protected and managed so as to preserve its natural conditions.”

The Wilderness Act is essentially nature’s Bill of Rights, places where we humans, out of a sense of respect, humility and foresight, have agreed to let nature be. Since passage of the Wilderness Act, the National Wilderness Preservation System has grown to include 110 million acres in more than 760 units.

The SHARE Act would turn the Wilderness Act on its head, allowing endless habitat manipulation and modification, including logging, chaining, herbicide spraying or myriad other offenses done under the guise of “wildlife conservation” or for providing hunting, fishing and recreational shooting experiences. While such management might be fine for a Texas game farm, they represent a dramatic change for the Wilderness Act, which for over 50 years has required the preservation of wilderness character as the top priority for public wildernesses.

The SHARE Act would also allow the construction of “temporary” roads, dams or other structures in wilderness, again if done under the guise of benefiting hunting, angling, recreational shooting or wildlife conservation. And all such projects would be exempt from any environmental review or public scrutiny under the National Environmental Policy Act — in essence making wildernesses some of the least protected of all public lands.

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Ed. note: Keep your eye on this one. This bill has the full support of the NRA and other gun lobbies because of its hunting aspects. Harm to the Wilderness Act is an inconvenient sidebar to those who favor the bill.

 

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