GSMNP Wilderness History  Jan 21, 2008
  Kirk Johnson

== 1 of 3 ==
Date: Mon, Jan 21 2008 10:08 am
From: Kirk Johnson

> I was surprised to find that none of the GSMNP was listed as protected
> wilderness.
> JP

Here's a little bit about the GSMNP/wilderness history from the late, great
Eastern wilderness advocate Ernie Dickerman:

Living at Knoxville, my principal recreation was prowling the Great Smoky
Mountains on foot--a 500,000 acre mountain wilderness. When I found the
Smoky Mountains (within a month after arriving in Tennessee), I knew I had
found what I was looking for on this planet; and which explains why I stayed
at Knoxville for so many years (only 50 miles from the Park). In fact I left
only when moving to Washington D.C. to the Wilderness Society headquarters
in 1969.

What got me on the staff of the Society was the stupid idea of the then
Director of the National Park Service (George Hartzog) to build a new
highway across the Great Smokies Park thru the wilderness of the western
half of the Park--which intent he announced at a meeting of all national
park superintendents at Gatlinburg, Tennessee in September 1965.

Already at that date the Conservation Committee of the Hiking Club, under
its Chairman Harvey Broome, had developed a Wilderness Plan for the Great
Smokies Park (fast action considering that the Wilderness Act had only been
passed in September 1964. What got me hired by the Wilderness society in
February 1966 was that the Society wanted someone thoroughly familiar with
the Park as a natural area and strongly wilderness-minded to travel about
the southeast promoting the citizens wilderness plan and opposing the
Director of the Park Serviceš road proposal. It turned out that people all
over the United States from Florida to California, from Maine to Washington,
were opposed to new roads being built in the national parks, including this
proposal for the Great Smokies Park. Also we had influential friends in
Washington. With us folks in Knoxville leading the fight and providing the
ammunition (the facts for wilderness and against the road), a vigorous
campaign was mounted and continuously waged.

It took a seven-years fight to defeat this stupid road proposal until in
1971 Director Hartzog threw in the towel. Meanwhile Secretary of the
Interior Stewart Udall had told him it was "no go" and the North Carolina
Congressman most directly concerned had recognized that even if the Park
Service persisted the opposition was so strong that Congress would not
appropriate the money.

For a variety of political reasons and despite that an overwhelming majority
of citizens testified for wilderness at the official wilderness hearings
held by the Park Service in June 1966 at Gatlinburg TN and Bryson City NC,
not a single acre of the Great Smokies Park is yet in the Wilderness System.
However, in the mid-1970šs then Park Superintendent Boyd Evison drew up a
Master Plan for the Park which essentially incorporates the citizens
wilderness proposal and otherwise severely limits any development in the
Park, which Master Plan to this day determines management of the Park.

== 2 of 3 ==
Date: Mon, Jan 21 2008 12:26 pm


Thanks for the history. The defeat of that horrible proposal is a testament to the importance of citizen activism. Anybody who believes that we can always trust to the management of our forests and parks to do the right thing need only to become involved in fighting one of these boondoggle projects. A change of heart follows pretty quickly. Eternal vigilance; there's no substitute for it.


== 3 of 3 ==
Date: Mon, Jan 21 2008 5:49 pm

And the importance of the NEPA process, where every interested individual in America is invited to have his say and partipate in the different is that to state parks/state forests/corporations/private businesses in their project planning?