Defining wilderness

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In regards to "Peddling protein" (see Oct. 8, 2009), I truly hope that Ethan Smith did not pedal his bike and trailer from the Rattlesnake Wilderness. Riding bicycles in a wilderness area is illegal and subject to a federal fine.

I've noticed repeatedly in articles in the Independent that its staff has no idea what wilderness is and what it is not. "Street Talk" once asked several individuals if they used "wilderness," and all those questioned obviously had no idea what areas are actually designated as wilderness and what activities are allowed in wilderness areas.

"Wilderness," as federally designated (and, in some cases, state and tribally designated), is roadless, undeveloped land that is managed in its natural state. Wilderness is not Greenough Park, it is not the Rattlesnake National Recreation Area, it is not Blue Mountain. It is the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area, the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness Area and, of course, the Rattlesnake Wilderness Area, among others. Mechanical transportation of any kind is illegal in these areas. Thus, no trucks, motorcycles, snowmobiles or bicycles are allowed. You can walk in, ski in, kayak/canoe in, or ride a horse into these areas. No logging, mining or commercial development of any kind is allowed. Chainsaws are illegal there, as is any motorized device.

In view of the recently introduced Forest Jobs and Recreation Act—a new wilderness bill by Sen. Jon Tester—I feel it is important that all Montanans know exactly what wilderness is and what is allowed there.

Mike Jarnevic


Editor's note: Rest assured, Ethan Smith made clear to our reporter that he did not bike in the Rattlesnake Wilderness Area. He did bike from his camp just outside the designated area back to Missoula


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