Wilderness Management in National Parks and Wildlife Refuges

By Zellmer, Sandra B. | Environmental Law, Spring 2014 | Go to article overview

Wilderness Management in National Parks and Wildlife Refuges


Zellmer, Sandra B., Environmental Law


I.   INTRODUCTION II.  DISTINGUISHING FEATURES OF WILDERNESS MANAGEMENT BY THE DOMINANT      USE AGENCIES      A. Physical Characteristics         1. Wilderness Characteristics         2. National Park Characteristics         3. Wildlife Refuge Characteristics      B. Agency History, Culture, and Organization         1. Pre-Wilderness Act Agency History            a. National Parks            b. FWS         2. Timing and Impact of Wilderness Application         3. Modern Agency Culture and Organization      C. Contours of the Agencies' Statutory Mandates         1. The Park Service Organic Act         2. The Refuge Acts      D. Agency Rules, Policies, and Procedures         1. National Parks         2. Wildlife Refuges III. CASE STUDIES      A. NPS      B. FWS IV.  THE FUTURE OF WILDERNESS PRESERVATION ON THE MULTIPLE USE LANDS V.   CONCLUSION 

I. INTRODUCTION

The nation's preeminent preservation statute, the Wilderness Act of 1964, has achieved significant gains in ensuring that portions of federal lands remain "unimpaired for future use and enjoyment as wilderness." (1) Great strides have been made to realize the congressional purpose of "secur[ing] for the American people of present and future generations the benefits of an enduring resource of wilderness.... administered ... in such manner as will leave them unimpaired for future use and enjoyment as wilderness, and so as to provide for the protection of these areas, [and] the preservation of their wilderness character...." (2) Despite the achievements, pressure to allow motorized access, road construction, and intensive recreational use within wilderness areas continues to mount.

All four of the nation's federal land management agencies are subject to the Wilderness Act, and each has millions of acres of federally designated wilderness under its jurisdiction. (3) But there is significant variation between agencies when it comes to their wilderness management approaches. As Robert Glicksman and George Cameron Coggins observed, the wilderness managing agencies have their own distinct traditions, missions, and governing standards, with "no pretense of uniformity or even of coordination." (4)

Professor Glicksman's Article in this symposium issue explores the distinctions between the two multiple-use agencies--the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Forest Service--and concludes that the Forest Service does a better job of achieving the objectives of the Wilderness Act. (5) He measures the agencies' successes and failures by applying six factors that signify the agencies' approaches to wilderness: 1) the physical characteristics of the lands managed by each agency; 2) the agencies' history, culture, and structure; 3) the distinctions in statutory provisions governing the agencies' activities; 4) the differences in the agencies' planning and other policies; 5) congressional commitment to wilderness preservation on the lands under each agency's jurisdiction; and 6) judicial treatment of the agencies' wilderness related decisions.

This Article unabashedly borrows Glicksman's analytical framework to provide a scorecard of sorts for the two "dominant use" land management agencies--the National Park Service (NPS) and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). It applies many of the same factors to determine whether NPS or FWS has had more success in handling wilderness issues. In a slight departure from Glicksman's analysis, this article hones in on wilderness management, but considers the agencies' approaches to wilderness designation to the extent that they shed light on the agencies' management modus operandi. Keying in on wilderness management leads to a greater emphasis on the language and implementation of the agencies' regulations and internal policies and guidelines. It also sharpens the focus on individual case studies on wilderness management and their resolution in court.

Like Glicksman's Article, this assessment provides an impressionistic view rather than an empirical one. …

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