Last year a group of Boy Scout’s were denied access to the wilderness, when kids are getting heaver and heaver, and seeing the latest data about obesity in young people of our country because they are not getting enough exercise, and with the decreasing use of the wilderness by young people that would rather play video games then explore the wilderness.
I was shocked when I head that, last summer a Boy Scout troop from Bend was cited for having too many people in the wilderness. According to the troop leader they had 13 people in the troop going in to the Three Sisters Wilderness. Knowing there was some kind of partly limit the scout troop divided the kids in to two groups. Each group traveled and camp in separate areas. But the US Forest Service sited the troop leader for having too many people in the wilderness. Just because they were from the Boy Scouts organization, that made them a group.
This got me interested in just what dose the 1964 Wilderness Act say. After extensive research I could not find any thing in the 1964 Wilderness Act or the new 2005 Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act, that limits the use of public lands. On the contrary in Section 3 (J) of the 2005 Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act it stated “NO RESTRICTION ON RECREATION OPPERTUNITIES— Nothing in this Act shall limit the use of recreation opportunities only to areas designated for collection of recreation fees.” Congress obviously want citizens to us there public lands.
As I continued my research looking for that laws that allowed the USFS to limit the number of people using the wilderness, I found sec. (3) (a) (2) of the 1964 Wilderness Act which states “Maps, legal descriptions, and regulations pertaining to wilderness areas within respective jurisdictions also shall be available to the public in the offices of regional foresters, national forest supervisors, and forest rangers.”
So according to the law the US Forest Service should have the wilderness regulations that could show me all the things I can and can not do in the wilderness.
I was very disappointed after contacting several Forest Service offices. Most of the district and forest offices did not know any thing about wilderness regulations or they would not even return my calls or e-mail’s
Only the Bend Ranger district could even supply me with any official regulation document, the “Three Sisters Wilderness Use Restrictions Deschutes National Forest” but the forest ranger I talk to did not know if the Order DES-2005-002 was the legal document stated in the Wilderness Act. But that is the one he used.
When inquiring about the regulation that limited the number of people in the wilderness. I received many, many opinions, but no one could show me the laws that the wilderness act was referring to.
Again only the Bend Ranger Districts document DES-2005-002 item #2 which states “Entering or being in the wilderness as part of a group of more than twelve people and or with more than twelve head of stock.” had any reverence to limits to public lands. The document quoted Code of Federal Regulations (CFR).36 CFR 261.57 (a) as the supporting law to there statement. The 36 CFR 261.57 (a) states “When provided by an order, the following are prohibited: (a) Entering or being in the area.”
NO one could tell me the definition of a “group” I had some USFS employees say if I knew twelve other people in the wilderness, I would be in violation of the regulation, and if more than twelve people were gathering in one place are they would be in violation of the 12 person limit. I wonder how that works at the summit of mountains? Maybe we need to take numbers to stand on the summit of a mountain.
Reading the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR).36 CFR 261.57 (a) I realized that using this regulation to limit the number of people using the wilderness is really a catch all for allowing the USFS employee to use this code for any personal opinions on what they think the wilderness should be like. They could use this regulation to promote certain types of shoes, have certain types of cloths or even only allow certain kinds of people or only certain groups in to the wilderness.
So watch out the Forest Service use of Code of Federal Regulations (CFR).36 CFR 261.57 (a) can and most likely will be used in any way they seem fit, because most of the employees do not even know the laws or have any ideas there is laws that regulated the wilderness. They just make it up.