September 24, 1994
Secretary Bruce Babbitt
U.S. Department of the Interior
1849 C Street, NW, Room 5555
Washington, D.C. 20240
Re: Draft RS 2477 Regulations
Roads are the single greatest threat to the environment. Not only does road construction cause enormous damage to wildlife and wildlife habitat directly, but by fragmenting (balkanizing) habitat and by allowing easy human access, roads indirectly are pushing numerous species toward and into extinction. This is, of course, unacceptable.
I frankly don't care what the law says; laws are made by humans for the sake of humans, with no input or vote from the wildlife that are affected by these laws. We are morally obligated to afford wildlife (i.e., all non-human, non-domesticated species) the same rights to live and prosper that we claim for ourselves. Isn't that obvious?
Therefore, our claim to "own" and have a right to dominate every square inch of the Earth is absurd. It is time to recognize that ensuring the continued existence of other species demands that we set aside habitat for wildlife that is large, appropriate, interconnected (as it always was before the advent of roads), and completely off-limits to humans (no exceptions), just as we have from time to time in history voluntarily designated certain places as sacred and inviolable. Life is sacred, and hence, wildlife and wildlife habitat are also sacred!
With this in mind, I beg that you use every power available to you to deny or minimize RS 2477 rights-of-way across our public lands. Decades of mining, logging, oil exploration, recreation, and other forms of industrial-grade damage have left us with a tiny fraction of our natural heritage. Please help preserve what little we have left!
We claim a right to travel, which is supported by law. However, this doesn't imply a right to travel in luxury, by motor vehicle, on roads that meet Interstate Highway standards! Let the claimants walk! Do not allow any right-of-way to be "improved". If there is at least one way to reach a given location (and there always is -- on foot or by rowboat!), do not grant requests to create other access routes. In fact, where excessively easy road access is threatening wildlife survival (e.g. in grizzly country), we need to begin closing roads and returning the right-of-way to its prior condition.
Habitat areas in the U.S. are presently inadequate (too small, and too disturbed by man) to ensure the survival of our full complement of wildlife species. Instead of opening up more areas to human access, we need to close roads, remove human artifacts, and recreate enough wilderness to stop the hemorrhaging of the Earth's precious genetic endowment. I trust you will help!
Michael J. Vandeman, Ph.D.