September 27, 2021

Biden’s Call for Increasing Utilization of the Wilderness Act of 1964 Criticized

Biden’s Call for Increasing Utilization of the Wilderness Act of 1964 Criticized  

By: Sydney Sheffield 

To Support President Biden’s “America the Beautiful” initiative, the Administration announced September as National Wilderness Month, which includes expanding the use of the Wilderness Act of 1964, signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson. However, this action was criticized by The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and Public Lands Council (PLC). 

The Wilderness Act of 1964 prohibits the use of motorized vehicles or mechanical tools. The Act established the National Wilderness Prevention system, a national network of more than 800 federally designated wilderness areas. The worry is that in many cases, it bans the active management that is necessary to curb the risk of wildfire, eradicate invasive species, maintain healthy habitat, and water sources for wildlife.

"The call for increased designation of wilderness areas is troubling for a variety of reasons, not the least being that it won't actually result in improved land health," said NCBA Vice President of Government Affairs Ethan Lane. "The White House cannot acquire, designate, or prohibit their way into nationwide conservation. If they pursue this approach, they will not be able to achieve the goal of truly conserving 30% of lands and waters, and they will alienate agricultural producers who make up the bulk of Americans actually performing conservation work every day."

"Since the America the Beautiful campaign was announced, we have worked with the administration in good faith to educate on the dangers posed by hands-off, overreaching prohibitions and preservation-focused designations that prevent active conservation of our natural landscapes,” said NCBA Executive Director of Natural Resources and PLC Executive Director Kaitlynn Glover. “We appreciate the President’s support for the open, wild spaces that are conserved by cattle and sheep producers every day but holding wilderness areas up as the gold standard for natural landscapes is misguided."

NCBA and PLC state both organizations are actively engaged with the Administration’s America the Beautiful Interagency Working Group to support farmer’s and rancher’s interests. 

“When federal agencies prioritize blanket designations over targeted, active conservation, they send the signal that they only care about the name of the area — not the condition of the resources. Conservation is an action verb. Public lands ranchers have a wealth of skill and knowledge in successful conservation, and we welcome continued opportunities to work with the Biden Administration to share that knowledge," Glover concluded.