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LETTER: Wilderness designation for wildlife refuge brings its own problems

Tara Blake’s promotion of wilderness for the Desert National Wildlife Range (“Public lands,” Sept. 16 letter) is both eccentric and naïve. Apparently, Ms. Blake forgot that the bill promoting the transfer of primary management of refuge lands to the Air Force was fronted by Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto. Now Sen. Cortez Masto is promoting wilderness in another bill.

As we saw with former Sen. Harry Reid, wilderness lets legislators put a happy face on selling other public lands. Moreover, the lands Sen. Cortez Masto is proposing to dispose of now did not qualify for previous disposals. Nothing has changed so that these lands are now less valuable to wildlife and for public uses.

Wilderness is not an alternative protective option for a wildlife refuge. Wildlife refuges are areas set aside for the benefit of certain species, such as desert bighorns. They are areas where management can be aggressive. Water projects may be built for bighorns or lakes may be created for ducks.

The problem is that wilderness advocates have contentiously opposed active management on wildlife refuges with wilderness. Wilderness requires that all actions be run through a wilderness coordinator, not a wildlife biologist. As it is managed by federal agencies, wilderness prioritizes human recreation, and the benefits to wildlife are a secondary consideration even on a wildlife refuge. The human wilderness experience takes priority. This has been demonstrated time and again on refuges burdened with wilderness.

It would be a shame to save the Desert Range from expanded bombing and warfare training only to see wildlife pushed aside for new hiking trails and expanded human interference. No wilderness.

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