- Big Spring Wilderness
- Smith Creek Wilderness
- Lower Rock Creek Wilderness
- Spring Creek Wilderness
- Van East Mountain Wilderness
- North Fork Wilderness
- Swan Creek Wilderness
A few decades ago, during the course of field evaluations of the most remote portions of Mark Twain National Forest, it became apparent that the wildland resources of the Mark Twain, although of high quality and great value, were extremely limited in extent. It was also apparent that not all of this limited resource was necessarily ready or even suitable for inclusion by statute in the National Wilderness Preservation System. Missouri Wilderness Coalition affiliates concluded that some of the Mark Twain’s choice and authentic wild lands could and should be protected and managed by programs developed and administered by the Forest Service itself. In 1977 and 1978 MWC identified and approved a selected list of seven areas on the Mark Twain that possess authentic and valuable wildland values, but which we were not prepared to propose for federal wilderness designation.
These relatively few and modest sized areas, totaling just under 50,000 of the Mark Twain Forest’s 1.5 million acres, nevertheless represent a resource of enormous value to the people of Missouri and the nation. Since 1978 MWC has found itself to be generally in partnership with the Forest Service in the recognition and protection of these areas. When the first Mark Twain Forest Plan was put forth in 1985, working through various of our affiliated conservation groups, we negotiated with the Forest Service and reached a Settlement Agreement finalized in 1988 whereby these seven areas were designated as “Sensitive Areas”, and provided with an extra level of protection of their wild character. The most important of the provisions for these areas is the restriction on commercial development in the form of timber harvest and mining entry; equally vital is the active protection of the areas from road development and motorized intrusions. The safety mechanism for such provisions is also key: timely advance notification to the Agreement’s signatory parties of any potential deviations from these protections, with opportunity for review and response.
Since the time of the Settlement and up to the present, we have endeavored to adhere to our commitments under that Agreement, and feel that the Forest Service, with a few exceptions, has in general done so as well. This partnership has worked. As a result, the people of Missouri and all visitors to the Mark Twain have had the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of these precious wild lands. In almost all cases, the primitive quality of the areas has actually improved, with maturing native vegetation, and increasingly faint evidences of man-made intrusions. All of these seven “Sensitive Areas” are unusually beautiful, scientifically important, and offer superlative opportunities for solitude and serenity in a natural setting. And thousand of visitors have in fact taken advantage of these opportunities. The public benefit of this program has been proven and is ongoing; it can only be described as a resounding success.
Although the 1988 Settlement Agreement was written for the life of the first Forest Plan, the Supervisor’s directive to implement a policy of discussing management proposals regarding the Sensitive Areas, was specifically identified as “continuing indefinitely”. Thus, MWC's working presumption has been that the Sensitive Areas provisions are to be carried forward under the new Plan, whatever changes may affect other resource issues. It was brought to our attention that the new Plan may be written so as to render possible the undermining and downgrading of some of the key protections for the Sensitive Areas, risking the deterioration of their wildland values. Consequently, we joined Missouri Coalition For The Environment and several other groups in appealing the 2005 Forest Plan.
You may also want to download this Autumn 2007 newspaper that deals with the Proposal:
→ Wilderness For Missouri (5.1M)