A reel-life lesson in managing federal land

Statesman Editorial board
June 11, 2010
Idaho Statesman

Rigid by necessity, the Wilderness Act is constructed to protect pristine lands from the commotion and chaos of modern life.

Still, the law grants federal agencies the chance to achieve some balance.

The U.S. Forest Service is trying. Agency officials reversed an ill-advised decision to ban an Idaho Public Television film crew from the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness. They did the right thing, eventually. And they have drafted a guideline acknowledging the role film crews can play in helping the public understand the inherent, enduring values of their public lands.

What could be wrong with that?

Listening to some wilderness advocates, as they line up to give the Forest Service an earful, the feds are opening the door to all manner of multimedia exploitation. One activist showed up recently at the Idaho Conservation League's blog site and likened public TV's taping of a student conservation crew to the filming of a sequel to "Avatar."


The hardliners are trying to browbeat the feds back toward the same kind of bureaucratic nonsense that started this ruckus. The critics argue that the Wilderness Act's restrictions on commercial enterprise should apply to a public television documentary.

This is a stretch.

Modest, unobtrusive filming access does not threaten the wilderness resource - in this case, the 2.3-million-acre grandeur that is the Frank. Nor does it compromise the wilderness experience for visitors. Given that, it is befuddling that this innocuous request has taken on a controversial life of its own.

But since it has, this is a chance for us all to learn something - not just about wilderness, but about how the feds manage the wilderness. Do they strive for balance and stick to it, in the face of some criticism? Think of it as a documentary in real time. The tape is rolling.

"Our View" is the editorial position of the Idaho Statesman. It is an unsigned opinion expressing the consensus of the Statesman's editorial board. To comment on an editorial or suggest a topic, e-mail editorial@idahostatesman.com.

Originally posted at http://www.idahostatesman.com/2010/06/11/1226426/a-reel-life-lesson-in-managing.html

The Opinion posted here is provided by permission of its original publisher and does not necessarily reflect the views of Idaho Public Television.

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