Explore, Enjoy, and Protect the Planet

Wilderness Protection in the Allegheny National Forest
by Kirk Johnson, Friends of Allegheny Wilderness

Dry brook inthe proposed Chestneut Ridge Wilderness Area Dry Brook in the proposed ANF Chestnut Ridge Wilderness Area · Photo by Kirk Johnson/Friends of Allegheny Wilderness

Friends of Allegheny Wilderness seeks to permanently protect the remaining qualifying areas of the Allegheny National Forest (ANF) as designated wilderness under the Wilderness Act of 1964 for future generations to use and enjoy. Currently, there are only two wilderness areas in the ANF — Hickory Creek and Allegheny Islands — totaling 9,000 acres, or less than two percent of the entire forest. Nationally, about 18 percent of all national forest lands are designated as Wilderness.

Beginning in 2001, volunteers from across the state spent two years carefully analyzing the ANF’s most wild areas for their potential to be included in America’s National Wilderness Preservation System by act of Congress. These volunteers identified eight areas totaling 54,460 acres and published these results as the Citizens’ Wilderness Proposal for Pennsylvania’s Allegheny National Forest in 2003.

Unfortunately, the U.S. Forest Service has only recommended two areas totaling 13,000 acres to Congress for wilderness designation. While Friends of Allegheny Wilderness is grateful to the agency for recognizing the merits of these areas, many important prospective wilderness areas were left out. The good news is that Congress does not have to limit itself to the agency recommendation; Congress can designate as much of the Citizens’ Wilderness Proposal as it deems appropriate.

In order to convince the Pennsylvania Congressional delegation to act, citizens must generate a massive amount of grassroots support for the Citizens’ Wilderness Proposal. Designated wilderness provides tremendous opportunities for backcountry recreation, such as hunting, fishing, and backpacking, and provides permanent reservoirs of undisturbed habitat for threatened and endangered species, and indeed for all native species of Allegheny Plateau flora and fauna.

YOU CAN HELP — Send a letter

Please visit the Friends of Allegheny Wilderness site and download the template letter to Congress (right-hand side of the home page under “Write Your Members of Congress”). Edit the letter as you see fit, add details of why wilderness is important to you, and send it to your U.S. Representative and both Senators Casey and Specter. If you live in Rep. Glenn Thompson’s Congressional district, your letter will be critical — Rep. Thompson represents the vast majority of the ANF and will be a very important decision-maker on this issue.