Tenas Lake, Mt. Washington Wilderness, Oregon (Photo by Katie Grenier)
If you’re lucky enough to live close to a Wilderness Area…or lucky enough to travel to and explore one…you can help protect these special areas by knowing and following a few stewardship principles:
- Fill out a Wilderness permit. On National Forests, the “Wilderness Self-Issue Permit” is at the trailhead where you’ll find a registry box with the required form. In heavily-used areas where the number of people are limited (e.g., Yosemite National Park), a wilderness permit for overnight camping is required and can be filled out online in advance of your planned visit (apply early to guarantee a spot!). Find out how and where to obtain a wilderness permit for the areas you plan to visit, fill out the forms, and carry your section of the permit with you.
- Follow the Rules. Take time to learn and abide by the rules, which are tailored for the issues of each specific Wilderness Area. In our Oregon Wilderness Areas, typical rules include: a) limit group size to no more than 12 people; b) use existing campsites (instead of creating a new one); and c) no campfires within 100 feet of water or a trail. In many Rocky Mountain National Forests, there are food storage requirements to reduce bear/people conflicts. Rules differ so take a few moments to know them.
- Leave No Trace. Pack It In, Pack It Out. These catchy slogans became a serious movement to keep our wilderness areas pristine. The Center for Outdoor Ethics provides 7 principles, and actions for each principle, you can do to help maintain our precious wilderness areas.
Hard to describe the feelings I get when I enter a Wilderness Area…I am engulfed in serenity and a special feeling of something bigger than myself. Very thankful for those early visionaries, such as Sigurd Olson, who had the foresight to set aside and protect these public lands. May we continue to protect them as gifts to our children!
“Wilderness to the people of America is a spiritual necessity, an antidote to the high pressure of modern life, a means of regaining serenity and equilibrium.” – Sigurd Olson (1899-1982) – Author, Teacher, former President of the Wilderness Society