Last week's "The Boot" brought to mind some of the work and opportunities offered by wilderness areas for local communities. As the article correctly pointed out, the sky over Oregon Badlands Wilderness, 15 miles or so to the east of Bend, has not come crashing to the ground, but rather has stayed above this 30,000-acre wilderness, a place now marked by solitude, serenity and silence. Oregon Badlands Wilderness was so declared by Congress, March 30, 2009, (not 2008 as in "The Boot) after many years of work from many people, including ONDA. Moving along with the concept of a Boot, The Friends of Oregon Badlands Wilderness, a.ka. The Fobbits, a completely volunteer group, act as the eyes, ears and boots on the ground, in a stewardship role, with our partners, the Bureau of Land Management.
Contrary to the statement in the article, four-wheeling and ATV access is prohibited in any wilderness under the Wilderness Act of 1964, and a lot of the stewardship work the Fobbits and others have done is ensuring that visitors experiences are enhanced when visiting Oregon Badlands Wilderness, such as trailhead maintenance, installation of correct signage at trailheads and minimum (it's a wilderness after all) appropriate directional signage at critical trail intersections, removing obsolete barbed wire fencing, trails maintenance and yes, monitoring and recording illegal vehicular access.
The Badlands Wilderness volunteers have removed practically every item that has been dumped into what was a previous wilderness study area, such as tires, garbage and appliances. We even have a dedicated team called F.A.R.T., the Fobbit Appliance Removal Team, who have virtually put themselves out of a mission due to the large amounts of previously dumped appliances the team has removed. No dumping takes place now.
And who are the others, apart from the volunteers who do this work, and learn? They are many and varied. Opportunities for the local community, Bend and surrounding areas, have been eagerly taken up by schools in educational wilderness outreach programs, at-risk-youth groups, youth groups in general and adult groups such as churches. During the last fiscal year, we performed together 1775 volunteer hours in protecting preserving and restoring a local community wilderness asset.
So the above is a reminder to those who have the means or the power to decide what can be wilderness, to think of an overarching blue sky, a sky that will not fall, but could provide many more local community opportunities. After all, wilderness belongs to all the American people.
- David Eddleston,
Friends of Oregon Badlands Wilderness
Editor's note: The original piece did not intend to imply that ATV use is permitted in Wilderness Study Areas. Thanks for clarifying, David.