Does Wilderness Have A Value of it's Own?
By Daryl Hunter (published in 2000)

First of all I am not a left wing whako, I am a conservative activist, wildlife photographer and publisher. I started an organization called Citizens For A Freer America ( That said, I am also an urban escapee who moved to the Yellowstone area, for the beautiful scenery, wilderness areas, national parks, and all the great hunting, fishing and photography these wild lands provide.

For most of us, wilderness is an abstract intangible entity that most of us have never experienced, therefor cannot understand. It is difficult to form opinions on abstract subjects we are unfamiliar with especially when the information we do receive comes from biased consumptive benefactors or left wing wacko environmentalist Earth Firster's. The later we all agree, are a pleasure to hate.

Why are we conservatives so against conserving? Could it be because of our pre-disposition towards business blinds us by the urge to fill our wallet. We must ask ourselves, does something only have value if you can consume it or make a profit from it? Or do we "FEEL" it is a waste to just let something exist because we "FEEL "it has a higher value as profit? Profit is a transient value I might add.

There is a growing belief in this country that our wilderness areas are off limits to human use and this just isn't true. In wilderness areas you can ride a horse, hike, fish, raft, kayak, canoe, hunt and graze cattle. How do I know? I was a camp cook in for a hunting outfit in the Gros Venture Wilderness. The outfit I worked for specialized in catering to older folks. We would put them on a horse then take them to where the elk lived in the Gros Venture Wilderness. We also did summer horse back day trips into the wilderness as well as overnight pack trips. Yes it is hard to get into the wilderness but it can be done, and the wilderness can be used by the less than fit, and when they get there they enjoy it more than I do.

There is a lot of misinformation going on about the impeached Bill Clinton's proposed 40 million acres of wilderness, about 62,500 square miles (equal to about 18 Yellowstone National Parks ) nationwide. Some are saying that you won't be able to even step inside them to hike, fish or anything. Well this just isn't true. Below is some text I pulled from the impeached Bill Clinton's preservation announcement, however I would like to preface this with this question. How can you tell when Bill Clinton is lying?
- His lips are moving -.

Bill Clinton,
"Today, we launch one of the largest land preservation efforts in America's history to protect these priceless, back-country lands. The Forest Service will prepare a detailed analysis of how best to preserve our forests' large roadless areas, and then present a formal proposal to do just that."

"We will ensure that our grandchildren will be able to hike up to this peak, that others like it across the country will also offer the same opportunities. We will assure that when they get to the top they'll be able to look out on valleys like this, just as beautiful then as they are now."

I pulled these 2 quotes from a lengthy speech I didn't want to torture you with. The point being "the detailed analyses" will involve public input, something he didn't do in the Escalante executive order, and our grandchildren will be able to enter said wilderness areas to hike, fish and hunt.

Granted, Clinton thumbed his nose at the system with his irresponsible executive order imposing the Antiquities act on the Escalante debacle in Utah, no surprise out of that unethical ass. That land grab should have gone through the proper channels before it got protected, like it deserves to. This sort of thing takes years to study and implement correctly. The folks in southern Utah are starting to warm to the idea though. Tourism is up from, 520,000 in 1996 to 850,000 in 1998. The local saying is we will make lemonade out of the lemons. (National Geographic July 1999).

During proper review and impact studies and public hearings amazing things can happen. in 1978 in Alaska, hunting outfitters retained the right to maintain their hunting business's in a number of Alaska's new national parks, among many other concessions the government made to traditional users of the land.

Grand Teton Park wasn't a very popular idea with the locals of Jackson Hole Wyoming 50 years ago but now I know many former opponents of Grand Teton National Park that are now millionaires from the tourist business's they started with their lemons. How do I know, I worked for a number of them as fishing guide, snowmobile guide, national park tour guide, white water rafting guide, and dog sled guide. As a freelance photographer and graphic artist I have done advertising for them. Yes it's true, jobs aren't very good at holding me.

As a snowmobile guide in Yellowstone Park, I was asked on a daily basis why we didn't salvage the burnt but salvageable logs in Yellowstone National Park. I would explain. "When considering the big picture, we must keep microcosms of the world in a totally natural state so we can study them now and in the future. 1000 years from now after America has been using a large percentage of our national forest as tree farms as we should, these untouched microcosms will be a valuable laboratory and window to the biology of an unadulterated forest floor. As the centuries roll by and trees are not allowed to fall to the ground in our national tree farms the soil they grow out of will be altered, diminished due to the removal of wood rotting into the earth creating new soil. By retaining a percentage of our natural forest in the most restrictive category of preservation (wilderness areas) we will have maintained a window to the past, a living laboratory we can revisit to analyze how we might at sometime in the future be able to restore our 1000 year old tree farm soil to it's previous productivity."

I have good friends that are loggers that are angry about how the local forests have been mismanaged by the Department of Agriculture. The largest timber sale in United States history was here (Island Park, Idaho) and required Louisiana Pacific to be brought into the area because the sale was bigger than the local logging companies could handle. About seven years ago Louisiana Pacific closed up shop because the logging industry was dead here due to over harvesting. A lot of the local companies moved to Montana or went out of business. Thank God for Yellowstone and the local wilderness areas because had they not been protected, Louisiana Pacific would have had 10 more good years of cutting and the world would be a poorer place because of lack of diversity. You can see the Yellowstone Park boundary from the space shuttle due to the over logging. If Louisiana Pacific hadn't been brought in to over log the area, there would still be standing marketable timber for our former local loggers. Sustainable yield harvests must become an acceptable policy.

There are places on this earth that deserve the most restrictive protections, microcosms of untouched wonder, beauty, unbelievable hunting and fishing. As much as I would like to be able to buy a quarter section of land on my favorite mountain, log it to pay it off and have my own little heaven on earth I'm glad that I can't because hopefully my great grandson may be able to go up there and shoot his first Elk where I shot mine, as well as be able to see the land the way it was 500 years ago. That does have a value of it's own.

Us as conservatives should be in fact "conservative"! We should study all aspects of conservative existence, not just the ones that suit us. We should promote sustainable yield on our national forests circumventing the temptation to remove natures remaining wilderness from America's dwindling treasures. A forest managed for sustainable yield provides steady employment for eternity, verses boom then bust economy of a forest that isn't.

Our egocentric, consumptive national mentality that fails to factor for posterity must be reconsidered. Sustainable yield is as impossible a concept for our government to grasp as is spending within it's means, and paying off the National Debt. As we conservatives thump our bible and profess our superiority of values, maybe we ought to factor Gods creation into the equation when we have a grove of easy money old growth timber in our cross hairs.

Greater Yellowstone Resource Guide logo
For travel Information for the Yellowstone Region