In the United States there are some 165 areas officially classified as wilderness. Some are included in national forests, parks and monuments, wildlife refuges or on Indian reservations, and all are virtually roadless. None, though, enjoys any congressional guarantee that it will be perpetually maintained in a wilderness state.
Before June 6 Senator Hubert Humphrey (Dem.) of Minnesota will introduce a bill which he calls the National Wilderness Preservation Act and which will make it illegal to tamper further with these areas.
Senator Humphrey's bill reflects the sentiment of many Americans that in a rapidly expanding economy some undiluted wilderness free from any economic activity is a spiritual necessity. Conservationists regard Humphrey's proposal as something long overdue. But they are aware that any legislation which places so much lumber and mineral resource beyond the realm of development faces a rocky, although not impassable, road to enactment.
ACRES OF ARMY
The Army may expand Fort Sill, Oklahoma onto 10,700 acres of the Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge. In the course of hearings last week in Washington on a bill which would permit this, J. Clark Salyer, Chief, Branch of Wildlife Refuges of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, has some strong points to make: "This first slice of the melon is not the last one...The 10,700-acre loss will curtail wildlife by 35%. I am sure this is a continued inching...The Army has de-occupied its war-occupied lands—Japan, for instance—but not our refuges. I think the first destroyer of our wildlife is our Defense Department. We have become a race of midget-minded people riding around on rockets and super guns which we can't fire without destroying our economy and the refuges at the same time...Make no mistake about it, any land the Army takes over will be a private hunting club for the higher echelon, plus some civilians who play the Army game."
Salyer, in his obvious anger, also referred to the Air Force, which has already taken one million acres from the Desert Game Range in Nevada, home of the last remaining major bighorn sheep herd in the country (some 1,500 animals strong), and is now demanding another 750,000, which means just about all that is left.
The Army answered clearly and firmly. It is expanding west from Fort Sill, where it is buying 20,000 acres of private property as an "impact" area. The refuge land is needed as a buffer zone in the overriding interest of public safety.
Charlie Garvin, manager of sporting goods department at Rich's in Knoxville, Tenn., is something of a skeptic. He doubts many of those sad tales about "the one that got away," and his doubts are well taken. Recently Charlie placed a weight under a box and attached it to a spinning outfit through a small hole in the top. He then put his contrivance on display and offered the entire rig to that person who could heft the rod and guess closest to the weight.