The Ogden Sierra Club supports official Wilderness designation for much of the Mt. Ogden and Lewis Peak roadless areas that overlook the city, as shown in the map at right. Here are some questions and answers about this proposal.
What is the purpose of Wilderness?
Wilderness status protects federally owned lands from road construction and other activities that would spoil their natural character.
Why would Ogden want to have Wilderness areas nearby?
As our cities grow, it is important to preserve some places where we can go for a while to find quiet and solitude. Also, designating Wilderness would tell the world that Ogden is a community that cares about its natural environment.
Shouldn't Wilderness be in remote places rather than near cities?
Wilderness areas near cities are an important part of providing a balanced spectrum of recreational opportunities. There are already designated Wilderness areas near most of the cities of the Wasatch Front and elsewhere in Utah. In fact, Ogden is by far the largest city in Utah that lies more than 20 miles from the nearest designated Wilderness.
How much land near Ogden would be eligible for Wilderness status?
Not much. Large portions of our mountains are already being used in ways that are incompatible with Wilderness, or are privately owned. But most of the western slopes of Mt. Ogden and Lewis Peak are still functioning as Wilderness. The total size of these areas is a little under 20,000 acres, which is small compared to most of the West's designated Wilderness areas.
What protection do these lands have already?
Any development proposal on National Forest land must go through an administrative approval process and environmental analysis. But local rangers have a great deal of discretion in approving or denying proposals.
Isn't Wilderness inaccessible to handicapped persons?
Sometimes, although many Wilderness areas are accessible by horseback or wheelchair. But "access" is always a question of balance. Large portions of Ogden's mountains, including most of the major summits, are already accessible by automobile, motorcycle, or ski lift. If we keep building roads into every corner of our mountains, they will no longer offer the natural setting that we value.
Aren't mountain bikes prohibited in Wilderness?
Yes. But the Sierra Club's proposed Wilderness boundaries are drawn to exclude all existing trails that are regularly used by mountain bikers: the Bonneville Shoreline trail, the Skyline and Lewis Peak trails, and the extensive trail system at Snowbasin. Existing trails within our proposed boundaries are steep, rough, and unsafe for shared use by bicyclists and pedestrians. Also, we believe that in order to offer a wide spectrum of recreational opportunities, Ogden needs some trails where people can go to find solitude and a slower pace.
Why is the Sierra Club raising this issue now?
Ogden's political leaders are showing a new interest in environmental protection, partly in an effort to attract outdoor-oriented visitors and employers. Meanwhile, there are continuing pressures to develop Ogden's mountains with additional ski resorts, roads, and road-like "trails" designed for high-speed vehicle travel. If a consensus for Wilderness protection is not reached soon, we may lose this opportunity forever.
What can I do to promote Wilderness near Ogden?
Wilderness designation is a lengthy process that culminates with passage of a law by Congress. At this time, our goal is to find local consensus over how much of Ogden's mountains, if any, should be protected. Please discuss this issue with your friends and neighbors, and ask your local elected officials to publicly support Wilderness.