Wilderness use declining?
The National Visitor Use Monitoring project undertaken by the Forest Service offers some help, but there's little data over time to compare. One interesting figure on page 7 of the national report that Mr. Rey might find enlightening: in 2000 the number one use cited by visitors to National Forests nationwide was (drum roll please...)
hiking/walking 15.9 percent
The second most popular use was skiing, at 14.8 percent. And how did developed camping fare? Just 5.1 percent. Snowmobiling? Try 2.1 percent. And off-highway vehicle plus other motorized uses? Just 3.2 percent. Those aren't exactly huge numbers for "developed uses."
According to the figures buried in these reports, wilderness use in National Forests in Region 6 (covering all National Forests in Washington and Oregon) was 3.1 million visits in 2000. Because the Forest Service is still trying to accurately study and publicize wilderness use, I can't tell you if that's an increase or a decrease. But 3.1 million visits here in the Pacific Northwest is not small change, and those of us who love and use wilderness shouldn't stand for Rey's convoluted arguments for developing the Forest Service's roadless areas.
You can let him know your thoughts at Mark.Rey@usda.gov.
photo of Mark E. Rey courtesy of USDA.