Rural System's

The Wilderness Group




The Wilderness Group seeks out ancient forests, especially Natural Areas of the Rural System Tracts, National Forests and Parks, state forests and parks, trust and easement lands, and The Nature Conservancy, and tries to visit them, study them, and encourage that they be protected and properly managed.

A special interest is in assuring that the research done on them is used. Wilderness areas are said to be preserved for science. The group seeks to assure that this objective is achieved ... in addition to their many other objectives and uses.

The financial base is memberships, tour fees, publications and maps, photography supplies, catered meals, field equipment, publications, art and photographs, guide services, and tourism services to other wilderness areas in the region, U.S. and international areas (see The Tours Group). The special emphases are on guided tours to ancient forests wherever they may be found. Select areas are likely to be on public lands but private areas are sought as well and landowners benefit from fees paid to them from visits.

USDA ForestService Monangahela Forest Plan
Funds are sought for research in these areas, especially in cooperation with public and private groups. Active use (visits, studies, but not camping or potentially destructive work) is intended within designated Wildland Natural Areas. These are similar to U.S. Forest Services "Research Natural Areas." Each Natural Area is highly protected. Their primary purpose or use is for monitoring, acquiring knowledge, education, and fostering the metaphysical benefits stated by many people, i.e., the values of just knowing they are there and well tended. They are areas where some communities or natural features are preserved for scientific purposes and where natural processes are allowed to dominate.

Their main purposes are to provide:

  1. Baseline structure, dynamics, and relations against which effects of human activities or natural change elsewhere can be measured;
  2. Sites for study of natural processes in relatively undisturbed ecosystems. Aldo Leopold spoke of wilderness as "the base datum of normalcy."
  3. Sites for people to gain an historic perspective;
  4. Gene pools of all types of organisms, especially rare and endangered species and their dependents.

We are aware of and share many of the other interests that those listed here. Some of these can be exploited for groups of people with special interest, philosophy, enthusiasm, historical or ethnic reasons, esthetic reasons, inspiration, generating memories, and seeking yet-unknown opportunities and ideas. Another reason is to build a data base to help protect each area from "developers" of many types (mining, housing, dams, logging, roads). Rapid access to environmental impact-statement or assessment technology is needed in many such events.

The reasons for protection are often couched in poetry:

The guiding principles in managing these Natural Areas on the Rural System Tracts are to prevent unnatural encroachments or disturbances that directly or indirectly modify ecological processes or structures of the areas. We know that there have been modifications from humans and more are occurring. We seek places where they are likely to be minimum. The Wilderness Group will seek out inventoried ancient forests on the Jefferson and George Washington National Forest and later in nearby areas and do in-depth studies of these areas in order to try to gain knowledge of them as well as their protection and continued special use.

Typically on Rural System Tract Natural Areas, logging or grazing are not allowed, neither is human use which threatens to prevent achieving the objectives of the areas in general or the specific objective of a particular area. Management practices are allowed. Studies of a non-destructive nature must not compromise the natural conditions. Limited, essential changes may be made and small samples may be removed. It is critical that the investments made in long-term studies on these areas not be lost to later disturbances (e.g., logging, roads, powerlines, etc.). Protection is essential, but the costs are high and thus the production of knowledge from the area is expected to be equal or greater in relative terms.

Various projects including some from Nature Folks will be of interest to different people. Some may simply be observers. Others may wish to participate in studies.

The needs are to avoid impairing the sites for producing useful conclusions and to avoid conflicts among users (both current and with past or on-going studies). Plans for detailed area descriptions are available.

Biology and other classes of students may visit and use the Natural Area sites and contribute to a dynamic array of text files in the "Wilderness Book" planned to be on the web. Each file is about one of the above topics and has its own set of references and authors. "Expeditions" are encouraged to gain a variety of observations in a brief period on the listed topics.

Recent (2003) Note:
The Special PLaces was also the first efforts to combine promotion of special attractions on NFS land system and the stewardship partnerhsip of these special places--particularly trying to be sensitive to gateway community planning alignment. I very much want to continue this messaging of sustainable uses of publc places in wildland settings and use our alliances with private travel and tourism providers and outdoor industry to convey a "caring for the land" message; like Tread lightly and Leave No Trace as we pormote our "Special PLaces." The BLM has expressed an interest in partnering with us on the new 2003/2004 edition, but with no funds in WO it has been dfficult to coordinate a national campaign. I welcome the NFF interest and perhaps with a willing partner with close mission alignment such as the NFF, we can continue to move forward on a unified messaging of these national treasures as a national campaign.

For the 2001 and 2002 editions the WO had memberships with NTA, TIA, ABA and other connections with Non-Profit Educational Travel conventions etc, to purchase the mailists at low cost and the USDA mail Center has been the distribution vehicle. We also provided to America Outdoors copies to send out to their 600 plus OandG members. That amounted to external mailings of around 7-10,000 key travel and tourism industry professionals and industry reps. I could still expand to include Outdoor Industry of America and others. for next go-around. They have also been excellent trade show material for the International Adventure Travel and Outdoor Sports (IATOS) and TIA International POWWOW toruism industry shows as well as other regional venues.

Dave Holland has expressed a similar interest to get the partners in Tread Lightly, Leave No Trace and even the NSAA work on "Sustainable Slopes" better coordinated with our Caring for the Land messages for use of NFS lands--special areas. There may even be logical ties here for the Centennial promotion for this Special Places effort.

I think NFF and our RHWR tourism promotion efforts could build an exponentially greater marketing campaign for our NFS units and NFF membership if we can combine our efforts. There is also very strong logic behind working with our larger Interrpretive Associations too, such as PLIA and Nature of the Northwest. I will explore this with Elizabeth as well. We have only begun to comprehend and that the power of our NFS natural and cultural landscapes surpass any one provider in the USA for adventure travel and natrue based ecotoruism and heritage tourism experiences.

So, I will give Elizabeth a call hope we can connect this month. Thank you very much for advacing this potential partnerhsip idea.

Floyd A Thompson, III NRPA, ASLA
Travel/Tourism and Scenic Byway Program Leader
email: fthompson02@fs.fed.us
voice: 202-205-1423
fax: 202-205-1145
Recreation, Heritage and Wilderness Resources Unit
USDA, Forest Service
1400 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20250-1125

Related Contacts:
Elizabeth Temple
National Forest Foundation
Building #27, Suite 3
Fort Missoula
Missoula, MT 59804

Steve Kratville
Partnership and Outreach Coordinator
USDA Forest Service
Northern Region Office
Office: (406) 329-3141
Fax: (406) 329-3411
sjkratville@fs.fed.us

Emphasis on and interest in the areas splits among The Tours Group, The Wildland Walkers, and Nature Folks.

Perhaps you will share ideas with me about some of the topic(s) above.

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Robert H. Giles, Jr.
July 2, 2005