by Eileen McManus
Between 1976 and 1984 Congress passed four separate bills designating seven wilderness areas in the Mark Twain National Forest in Missouri: Hercules Glades, Bell Mountain, Rockpile Mountain, Devil's Backbone, Piney Creek, Paddy Creek and the Irish Wilderness. Wilderness conservation efforts on behalf of these areas were coordinated through the Missouri Wilderness Coalition, or MWC, which included all the major conservation organizations in the state. At that time MWC also identified seven additional areas which were designated for administrative protections as "Sensitive Areas": Lower Rock Creek, Big Spring, North Fork, Smith Creek, Spring Creek, Swan Creek, and Van East Mountain.
In 2005 the Forest Service produced another management plan for the Mark Twain and instead of strengthening protections for these seven sensitive areas, the plan actually weakened them. The MWC has been reactivated with a renewed and reinvigorated commitment to work together to complete the wilderness agenda for Missouri by proposing that these seven areas, totaling less than 50,000 acres of federal public land become part of the National Wilderness Preservation System. MWC's first major goal is to have legislation introduced by April 23, Earth Day of 2009, based on these four points:
- These areas have been successfully managed as wilderness for more than 25 years.
- Congress must pass wilderness legislation to protect these nationally recognized wilderness areas that provide important bird habitats, clean streams, and healthy forests.
- These areas will bring economic and tourism benefits, and would cost no jobs.
- Wilderness allows hunting, fishing, horseback riding and other non-motorized recreation opportunities for all.
Permanent protection of these sensitive areas can be assured only through wilderness designation which requires an act of Congress. Contact your Representative of Congress and Missouri Senators to support this proposal and consider adding the name of your organization or business to the growing list of endorsements. Also, as a limited opportunity, see for yourself the beauty of two proposed areas on a spring outing to Lower Rock Creek and Van East Mountain the weekend of April 17-19. Contact Eileen McManus, 816-523-7823 or firstname.lastname@example.org .