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Great Lakes Article:

Editorial: Protect the Apostle Islands
The Capital Times
10/11/03



In 1964 Congress passed the Wilderness Act to ensure that a few places in America would be forever preserved in their natural state, free from human development. For the 40th anniversary of the act next year, President Bush should declare Wisconsin's Apostle Islands National Lakeshore the newest wilderness area. And he should sweeten the designation by naming it the Gaylord Nelson Wilderness Area, after Wisconsin's former senator and ardent conservationist who pushed to get the Apostles included in the national park system in 1970.

The Apostle Islands comprise 21 green jewels in Lake Superior's blue water off the Bayfield peninsula. They are known for their dramatic bluffs, intricate sea caves and pristine beaches. Ojibwe Indians first set foot on the Apostles more than 500 years ago, followed by French fur traders and timber cutters. Today's visitors, about 200,000 a year, come to explore the natural beauty of the islands.

For the past two years, the National Park Service has been conducting a wilderness suitability study of the Apostles. Public response to four options presented has led the National Park Service to recommend designating 80 percent of the islands' land base as wilderness. Excluded would be Basswood and Sand islands, the mainland lakeshore and the waters separating the islands.

Island interiors have been managed as wilderness for 14 years. The significance -- and importance -- of the formal designation would be to permanently protect the Apostles, not just the land itself but the islands' cultural and historic legacy. Access would remain unchanged for boaters, hikers and campers.

The Park Service is soliciting public comment on the 80 percent wilderness option until Oct. 17. Go to www.nps.gov/apis/wstudy.htm to read the wilderness study and comment on it, or call 715-779-3397.

Wisconsin lacks vast tracts of land that can be set aside as wilderness. That's why we support this unique opportunity to protect the Apostle Islands.

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