Message from Mike Matz – This is it!

Your Wilderness - November 2012

We're on the final push. With the campaigning over, Congress returns and attempts to take care of unfinished business. The 112th Congress left a lot of important matters hanging when it recessed for the elections, one of which is taking up an omnibus public lands package that includes bipartisan bills to protect wilderness in states from Tennessee and Michigan to New Mexico and Washington.

Can it be done? Not without your help. But I'll get to what you can do in a moment. First, let's talk about some of these spectacular places.

In Tennessee, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R) has championed a wilderness bill for parts of the Cherokee National Forest that would protect fabled eastern woods whose fall colors are now in their full splendor. Slide your fingers up a map of the United States to Lake Michigan, where five Republicans and three Democrats have put forward legislation to keep 32,500 acres of the Sleeping Bear Dunes in a completely natural state for hunters, anglers, hikers, and paddlers.

Out west, New Mexico's two senators, including retiring Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D), chairman of the pivotal Energy and Natural Resources Committee, hope to leave a legacy northwest of Taos by creating the Rio Grande del Norte National Conservation Area with wilderness designations for Ute Mountain and Rio San Antonio. In the Pacific Northwest, a proposal to expand the popular Alpine Lakes Wilderness would also afford protection to the Middle Fork Snoqualmie and Pratt rivers and their native trout.

Ute MountainThese are just a few of the 25 pending bills that the Pew Environment Group is working on to give a gift of America's natural heritage to future generations. They all have strong local support. Those singled out have made enough progress through the congressional process to merit consideration, first on the floor of the Senate, then along to the other side of the Capitol for the House of Representatives to act.

Your members of Congress need to hear from you, whether or not one of these marvelous places is in your community's backyard. Your favorite area may come next, and we should help those who have put mammoth amounts of time and effort into getting their proposals this close to the finish line. The tape is in sight. Here are three simple things you can do:

  • Call your representative's and senators' offices. Ask that, among the weighty matters they must take up, they see to it that wilderness is protected yet this year.
  • Write a letter to your local newspaper's editor. Members of Congress pay attention to what's important to their constituents and letters to the editor are monitored by them and their staff for that express purpose.
  • Get three friends or neighbors to do the same.

Lawmakers still have time to conserve deserving wildplaces but only two short months in which to get it done. Wilderness is woven into the nation's character and traditions, and they—we—have a responsibility to act. Our vibrant ancient forests, wildflower-carpeted deserts, snow-capped peaks, and serpentine canyons can't speak for themselves. Following through with those three simple things is vital to make sure our public servants understand just how important wilderness is to us and those who will follow.