Letter to the editor: Federal land IDs are vital tools

Lands owned by the federal government have many designations. Moosalamoo is a National Recreation Area (MNRA). There are wildlife refuges, national parks, national forests, and others. These area titles are not simply meaningless, tedious bureaucratic inventions. Instead, most are Congressional designations that have been studied and intentionally designed to balance the multitude of values Americans hold for public lands.

Why should you care? Because the designation drives how the land is managed (or left alone) and what activities are allowed on such lands. National recreation areas, such as MNRA, are primarily created for recreation purposes. MNRA also has a goal of providing opportunities for education on the natural environment and forest management, which necessitates providing opportunities for all to access and enjoy the area. Management goals involve balancing varied public recreational interests with the protection of the natural character and resources.

Wilderness areas, such as the Joseph Battell Wilderness that abuts the MNRA, are to be protected in an “untrammeled” state by prohibiting things like motorized access and human development such as structures. These areas generally offer more solitude and are considered by many to be more “pristine.”

Other national forest areas without a recreation, wilderness, or other special designation are managed by the U.S. Forest Service for multiple uses such as logging, grazing, and recreation.

Both MNRA and Battell Wilderness were established in 2006. At that time, Congress also designated five other Wilderness areas in Vermont. While the MNRA is not wilderness, the goal is to keep it as natural as possible while still providing opportunities for public enjoyment.

There are different beliefs regarding what the human relationship to the land is or should be. Are we “managing” the land for its instrumental value, or does it have an intrinsic value and we should respect it for its own sake? There are no right answers or beliefs here, rather, we must continually balance often competing ideas and values.

Although not perfect, public land designations are a pretty good system that respects and attempts to operationalize the pluralism that is the foundation of our democracy. In other words, while the democratic experiment can be challenging at times, this country is founded on the idea that people with different interests, beliefs, and lifestyles can peacefully coexist, including while recreating.

The differences between the U.S. Forest Service and the National Park Service will be for another day.

Enjoy the land and tread lightly.

Susan Johnson 

Executive Director Moosalamoo Association


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