I saw an email from Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers yesterday that included some shockingly uninformed and outdated notions about wilderness that I had to respond to. The line that really bugged me, because it’s just not true, was this: “Let’s face it: When the government owns land – whether through a wilderness designation or a monument designation – it almost completely eliminates all economic vitality in the surrounding area.”
I don’t expect every politician to enjoy and appreciate the beautiful scenery and peacefulness of wilderness hiking as much as I do, but I do expect my elected officials to get their facts right and tell the truth when they’re pushing their agendas. There are literally dozens of recent independent economic studies that demonstrate that wilderness areas and other protected lands almost always benefit local economies (http://www.wilderness.net/).>
Anyone who has visited places like the Methow Valley, the Leavenworth area, or even Joseph, Ore., has seen how these bustling communities have used wilderness to their advantage. Even here in northeast Washington, our out-of-the-way Salmo-Priest Wilderness is getting more popular every year.
A few weekends ago when I was there both parking lots were packed with hikers young and old out enjoying the trails.
Ken Vanden Heuvel
Newman Lake, Wash.