Public lands provide important habitat for wildlife and abundant recreational opportunities. The Cascade Forest Conservancy’s work toward protecting these values involves safeguarding our federal public lands against harmful legislation that aims to transfer these lands out of federal ownership. We have also developed a long-term vision for land protection within the Gifford Pinchot National Forest that aligns proposed protected areas with the need for improved habitat connectivity and resilience to climate change impacts. As part of this vision, we advocate for new wilderness designations and administrative designations to protect these areas. Although many of our land protection efforts are focused within the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, we recognize the habitat value of connected state and private lands and work to protect those areas from harmful development.
Public lands are treasured places to reconnect with nature and with each other. The values supported by our public lands are as diverse as the landscapes. These lands, owned by all Americans, provide essential fish and wildlife habitat as well as incredible landscapes to enjoy camping, hiking, fishing, and oth
er recreational activities. The Cascade Forest Conservancy believes that public lands, and the irreplaceable benefits they provide, should remain in public ownership for future generations to enjoy.
Unfortunately, there has been a growing movement at the state and federal level to transfer public lands out of federal ownership. Legislation that aims to transfer public lands to states risks the public’s access because states often cannot afford to keep these lands. Because of this, public lands transferred to state ownership are likely to be privatized and the public will lose access to these special places.
At the Cascade Forest Conservancy we are working with our partners to monitor and oppose efforts to transfer public lands out of federal ownership. Additionally, we are working at the local level to ensure that our representatives recognize the value federal public lands have to local communities.
Legislative and administrative designations protect key areas of the forest from harmful impacts by eliminating activities such as timber harvest, dam creation, and motor vehicles from within designated areas. Recognizing the importance of these designations to land and watershed protection, the Cascade Forest Conservancy continues to work toward the protection and designation of eligible areas. New protected areas within the Gifford Pinchot National Forest can come from new and expanded Wilderness areas and areas designated by the Forest Service for special protection.
The Wilderness Act, passed in 1964, recognized wilderness as “an area where
the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man.” To be eligible for designation, an area must generally be at least 5,000 acres, roadless, and have a relatively unnoticeable human presence. Wilderness areas are designated by Congress within existing federal lands and offers the highest level of protection for federal lands.
Within the Gifford Pinchot National Forest there are seven Wilderness areas and other areas eligible for designation. Wilderness areas, and areas eligible for Wilderness, provide essential habitat for endangered and rare wildlife and improve habitat connectivity across the landscape. Also, Wilderness areas provide outstanding opportunities for non-motorized recreation such as hiking, backpacking, and wildlife viewing. Through new and expanded Wilderness areas, the CFC aims to protect key areas for habitat, recreation, and climate resilience.
New Wilderness designations must be made by Congress, and many ecologically important areas within the forest are outside of designated Wilderness or are ineligible for designation. To protect those areas that areas that do not meet the criteria for legislative designations, but support important values across the landscape, the Forest Service has the ability to protect these
lands through special area designations. The CFC works to incorporate these key areas into our vision for the forest, and advocate that the Forest Service manage these areas in a manner that is appropriate with their value to wildlife, recreation, and climate change resiliency.