Betreff: WILDALERT: Tell Congress not to gut Cumberland Island Wilderness
Von: "The Wilderness Society"
Datum: Fri, 17 Sep 2004 02:22:55 GMT
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WILDALERT: Tell Congress not to gut Cumberland Island Wilderness
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Wild Alert
September 16, 2004
In this issue:
Congress not to gut Cumberland Island Wilderness!
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Legislation Would Destroy Wilderness For Private Profit
Cumberland Island National Seashore. Photo courtesy of National
Park Service. At a time when the rest of America is celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, some members of Congress have a different, and deadly, idea: scrapping some wilderness protection on Cumberland Island National Seashore off the Georgia coast.

Cumberland Island is one of the largest undeveloped barrier islands in the world. It offers a wilderness experience within 300 miles of several metropolitan areas. But pending legislation in the House (H.R.4887) and Senate (S.1462) threatens the very qualities that make Cumberland Island so valuable. The bills propose to remove portions of the island from the protective status of wilderness, solely to benefit private and commercial interests. That's never been done in a unit of the National Park System and we mustn't allow it to happen now! We need your help to stop it.

It's important to let your House and Senate members know how strongly you oppose this special interest legislation. You can send that message immediately by clicking here:

Photos: Cumberland Island National Seashore. Photos courtesy of National Park Service.

Cumberland: An Island of Quiet, For Now
Photo: Cumberland Island National Seashore. Photo courtesy
of National Park Service. Cumberland Island, accessible only by boat, is the southernmost of Georgia's barrier islands. It is one of only six National Park wildernesses in the east. The United Nations has named it an International Biosphere Reserve, another measure of its significance.

Cumberland's 40,000 acres provide habitat for over 300 bird species, including the endangered wood stork. American alligators are common and the nesting population of loggerhead sea turtles is one of the largest along the Georgia coast. Visitors hiking from east to west across the island will encounter a white sandy beach, a maritime forest of live oaks and pines and a rich mosaic of salt marshes and tidal creeks.

Wilderness Today and Tomorrow
In 1972, the Congress protected Cumberland as a National Seashore to be managed by the National Park Service for all Americans. A decade later, the Congress designated 8,840 acres of the island wilderness. and another 11,718 acres of the island as "potential wilderness." Here's what that was supposed to mean: as soon as uses incompatible with wilderness ended, the land could be formally and fully protected as wilderness. And the Congress clearly directed that the potential wilderness be managed AS wilderness so that the island would revert to native wildness over time.

It's unusual for roads to be included in a wilderness; designated wilderness is nearly always is off-limits to motorized vehicles. The Congress made a fair-minded exception for these routes on Cumberland Island to accommodate private property owners who remain on the island but have all agreed to leave. The terms are specified in contracts by which the National Park Service paid owners a fair price and acquired most of the properties, subject to various terms of use and occupancy.

Take The Money and Drive!
The legislation and the contractual agreements allow residents to use only specific roads and only to reach their properties, a fair arrangement.

Too fair for some members of the Georgia congressional delegation: Sens. Saxby Chambliss and Zell Miller introduced legislation (S.1462) to strip hundreds of acres of the island out of protected wilderness status. Rep. Jack Kingston has just introduced similar legislation (H.R. 4887) in the House.

Development Follows Roads
The legislation would repeal wilderness protect for:

  • two roads, one a spur road to Plum Orchard and the North Cut Road that runs east to west through the wilderness on the north end of the island; and
  • a historic district at the north end of the island that is in a natural condition except for a few structures which will also disappear over time.

If that happens, it will split the small wilderness area in two and create a permanent motorized loop through the heart of the area. It will be all but impossible for quiet-seeking visitors to the island to ever get more than a mile from a motorized road or to ever escape the signs, sounds and smells of automobiles. This thoroughly undermines the original intent of Congress when it established the national seashore: that over time the island would grow wilder.

Public Interest Falls to Profit, Private Privilege
This legislation is meant to benefit a small group of business people. It allows privately owned Greyfield Inn to conduct motorized tours through the wilderness where commercial operators now have no right to drive. That's bad enough, but the attendant consequences are even more serious. Other island residents, whose rights to drive on the island are contractually limited to access to their own property, will be free to drive where they please.

In fact, the legislation opens the island to widespread motor vehicle use by anyone who can get a car, dirt-bike or all-terrain vehicle to the island. There will be no limit to the amount of traffic through the wilderness. Furthermore, the bill allows the Secretary of Interior to enter into commercial concession contracts for motorized seashore tours, opening this mostly-wilderness island to even more motorized use.

The historic district, now managed as wilderness, will lose this protection and be open to development. The Park Service could build anything there, from a visitors' center to a hotel. Once the gate is open to unrestricted motorized travel on the island, such development is all but inevitable.

How You Can Help: Contact Your Members of Congress Today
This dreadful legislation could come up for consideration at any time. We need your help. Please contact your Senators and Representative and ask them to fight any attempt to repeal wilderness protection on Cumberland Island. Urge them to contact the appropriate committees, too, and voice their strong concerns about the precedent this legislation would set.

You can send that message to your delegation immediately from

Your thoughts in your words are always most effective. We hope you will consider writing your own letter. There is a sample letter below that includes the major points. The link below will give you contact information for your members.

Contact Information
You can find out who your Senators and Representative are at:

Or write to:
Representative ___________
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

U.S. Senate
Washington, DC 20510
Status and text of the legislation

- S. 1462
- H.R. 4887

Sample Letter

Dear Senator/Representative:

Millions of Americans this month are celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Wilderness Act of 1964 and renewing our commitment to protection of the best of our national lands. Astonishingly, some members of the Georgia congressional delegation are working to repeal wilderness protection for parts of Cumberland Island National Seashore.

I write to urge you to oppose this effort, embodied in S. 1492 and H.R. 4887, and to let the appropriate committees know of your opposition.

Cumberland Island is a 40,000-acre barrier island off the coast of Georgia, one of the largest undeveloped barrier islands in the world and an International Biosphere Reserve. When the Congress created the seashore in 1972, and again when it designated the wilderness in 1982, it struck a marvelous balance between rights of property owners and the public interest. While allowing owners to retain motorized access until their contractual terms of occupancy expired, the Congress clearly stated its intent for the roads to return to a natural state when private owners have left the island and to be managed as wilderness until then.

These two pieces of legislation will destroy that balance. They would lift wilderness protection from two important roads across the island and for an entire historic district. This is little more than an effort by property owners and commercial interests to get a better deal than they agreed to and for which they were fairly paid.

The legislation is an affront to the Wilderness Act and an affront to fairness. Please do all you can to protect this remarkable part of America's public estate. We can't afford to sacrifice it to selfishness, greed and commerce. Please vigorously oppose H.R. 4887 and S. 1492.

(Your name and address)

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