Wilderness Management in National Parks and Wildlife Refuges
52 Pages Posted: 28 Jun 2014
Date Written: May 1, 2014
This article provides a wilderness 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). Given that both agencies operate under a similar conservation oriented mandate, one might assume that the imposition of a wilderness mandate would be closely aligned with their organic missions. However, NPS and FWS have both, at times, been surprisingly hostile toward wilderness within their systems. In NPS’s case, this is likely because of a concern that wilderness might disrupt visitor use and rein in its management discretion over park activities and resources. It may also be due to the perception that NPS does not need wilderness because of its long history and reputation as the preeminent land steward among the federal agencies. For FWS, wilderness may be seen as interfering with its discretion and ability to manage wildlife populations and to restore habitat through deliberate intervention, both of which are favored by the state fish and game agencies that exert pressure on FWS.
While both agencies have issued policies supportive of wilderness preservation, only FWS has put its policies - at least some of them - in its regulations, while NPS continues to rely on nonbinding manuals and policies. Neither agency has been especially committed to wilderness planning, although FWS’s planning processes may have a slight edge. Both agencies could improve their wilderness strategies and practices by engaging in rulemaking to solidify their commitment to preserving wilderness characteristics. For its part, the Department of Interior could take steps to coordinate its wilderness strategies and its oversight over all of the wilderness managing agencies.
Keywords: wilderness, national parks, wildlife refuges, park service, fish and wildlife service, wild, untrammeled
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