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Now that the Utah BLM wilderness process appears to be reaching a climax, the environmentalists have shifted their propaganda machine into overdrive. Each and every day we are bombarded with news reports and stories designed to frighten us into accepting huge wilderness set-asides so that our "fragile" environment might somehow be saved. Once wilderness is gone, they tell us, it is gone forever.

This is pretty heady stuff, and it no doubt goes a long way toward building up membership roles and draining dues from well-meaning folks who don't bother to question the motives of self-serving authoritarian edicts.A little critical reflection reveals that the fundamental premise of the preservationist's environmental theory is completely false; far from being fragile and finite, wilderness is a renewable resource. It is so renewable and persistent that it requires man's full-time efforts just to keep it from reclaiming that small portion of the Earth's surface that has thus far been civilized. The natural environment results from an equilibrium of global forces that far exceeds man's ability to either manipulate or control. The instant human efforts cease, the ever-present natural forces will act to restore the system to its previous state.

Rather than an environmental issue, wilderness designation could be more accurately described as a zoning issue. It will define and enforce, through police action, who will be allowed to access certain tracts of public lands and, more importantly, who will not. The defining criteria for this decision will be muscle power. If you possess sufficient muscle power to propel yourself you may enter and enjoy. If you do not, you are a persona non grata, subject to fine and/or arrest for venturing upon what was once your public land.

All vehicles are prohibited from entering designated wilderness lands. That means no cars, four-wheel drives, ATVs, snowmobiles, motorcycles, hang gliders or bicycles. Existing roads and trails are rudely cut off at the boundary with barricades and offensive signs. If you suffer from a disability or infirmity that prevents the exertion required to hike to distant spots, then you are no longer welcome. If you are too old, have a bad back, weak knees or arthritis, that's your tough luck.

One recent writer, in an insulting rationalization, suggested that such people ought to be content to reminisce over photos and memories of past experiences. Wilderness designation blatantly discriminates against most of our people.

This queer situation exists possibly because the Wilderness Act of 1964 predated civil rights legislation and thereby reflected a more primitive, elitist mentality. It was born of a time when individuals who were not members of the "in" groups were of no significance and could be suppressed with impunity.

But we are, nowadays, supposedly more enlightened and recognize that our public resources must be made available to all. This realization lies at the core of the Americans with Disabilities Act. But somehow the elitist environmentalists have not gotten the message. They still feel that it is OK to reserve our most precious public lands for the young, strong and healthy and to direct the rest of us to the back of the bus.

There is indeed something that will be lost forever when public lands are designated wilderness. This is the ability of the majority of our people to access and experience these places. An individual has only one life, and when it's over he can never again visit the places he was denied. This is the price that the environmentalists demand in order to reserve exclusive use of these lands for themselves.

The environmentalists do not seem to understand that people who travel via vehicle also love solitude and appreciate that elusive "wilderness experience." They scoff at the protests of local residents who have lived in and traveled these lands for generations. We all love the natural beauty of Utah and are offended to be branded as inferior beings unworthy of admission to these places. We resist being sacrificed for the benefit of the cult of the environment.

We do not have to acquiesce to their strident demands. We do not have to give them title to our most precious and priceless public lands. We can say no thanks: These lands are the heritage of all of the American people, and all of our people must be permitted to access them.