Wilderness reminds us that there are some things that are priceless—you simply can’t re-create it, and you certainly can’t buy it. Today, thousands acres of wild roadless forests in the Columbia Highlands of northeastern Washington qualify for wilderness.
Wild, biologically intact wilderness connects us to our past – an American frontier that shaped our values of freedom, self-reliance, and perseverance.
It also connects us to a healthy future. As our region’s population increases and becomes more urbanized and former farm and timber lands are developed, our remaining backcountry become even more valuable as remnants of our heritage.
Today, less than 4 percent of Washington’s designated wilderness lies east of the Cascade Mountains, and less than three percent of 1.1 million acres of Colville National Forest are currently protected as wilderness.
One hundred years ago, much of northeast Washington was wilderness. Today, our remaining roadless areas are all the wilderness we have left. In the Columbia Highlands, several hundred thousand acres of wild and roadless areas still remain unspoiled by logging, roads, and other human developments. Many of these areas qualify for wilderness designation and safeguarding for future generations.
Wilderness provides the strongest protection for our wild public lands. Only Congressionally designated wilderness yields permanent safeguard to ensure these wild lands will remain as they are today.
Wilderness reminds us there are some things that are priceless—you simply can’t re-create it, and you certainly can’t buy it.
What is wilderness?
Wilderness takes many forms. It may be broad expanses of sagebrush meadows on the Kettle Crest, the rolling, park-like vistas of a ponderosa pine forest at Thirteenmile Canyon, or high huckleberry-covered ridges in the Salmo-Priest Wilderness.
“Wilderness” simply refers to those places truly free and "untrammeled" or unrestrained – and according to the Wilderness Act of 1964, land which "generally appears to have been affected primarily by the forces of nature, with the imprint of man's work substantially unnoticeable."
People benefit from having healthy wildlands nearby. Wilderness provides a sanctuary from the pressures of a rapidly growing and changing world for those who enjoy leaving mechanized vehicles behind for traditional American wilderness activities and access. The economies of towns and communities located near designated wilderness are more diverse and stable, and their residents enjoy more economic prosperity than those in areas without wilderness.
Wilderness, a sanctuary for people and wildlife
Like humans, wildlife need sanctuary from the modern world and quality, undeveloped habitat. Many animals, such as bears, lynx, wolves, elk, wolverines, and caribou rely on the wild forests of the Columbia Highlands for refuge, habitat, and as a means to move between larger landscapes between the Cascades and Rockies.
When protected, wilderness also offers an enduring legacy of wilderness recreational activities and adventure. Wilderness designation preserves the public's ability to enjoy hiking, hunting, fishing, camping, birdwatching and berry-picking, horseback riding, skiing, and snowshoeing. Wilderness designation also protects critical habitat for fish and game, providing many of the nation's best quality hunting and fishing areas and longest seasons.
Wilderness can be enjoyed without even walking within its boundaries. Wild places form the rugged horizons of many communities, the backdrop for scenic drives, the canvas on which to create dreams of future adventures. Even if we never once set foot in a wilderness we benefit from its clean, clear air and its even, fresh flows of clean water.