Back to Publications

Ah, Wilderness! (But What About Access and Prospecting?)

Kenneth D. Hubbard, Proceedings of 15th Annual Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Institute (1969)

For centuries, man has found comfort and relaxation in the solitude of the forests and mountains. Paradoxically, the more man's life becomes urbanized, the greater becomes his demand for areas that can serve as an effective counterbalance against crowded city life.1 To illustrate, between 1950 and 1960, visits to our national forests jumped from 27 to 93 million.2 The number of turn-away visitors at recreation ares on peak holiday [586] weekends increases yearly, while outdoor recreation site quality declines because of overuse.3 At the same time, however, industrial and consumer demands have been at all-time highs, resulting in increased pressure for exploitation of natural resources and raw materials. For many years, these conflicting interestspreservation of wilderness areas and exploitation of resources in those areashave been traveling on a collision course. It was inevitable, then, that the debate preceeding the Wilderness Act4 was as spirited as any in many years on a bill involving conservation.5 It is the purpose of this discussion to examine the Wilderness Act and its administration by various governmental agencies, and to outline some potential problems for those involved in the exploitation of mineral resources in wilderness areas.


Before 1964, the federal government supervised three major categories of outdoor are