Washington Journal of Environmental Law & Policy


As ambitious as it is at times challenging to meaningfully apply, the Wilderness Act purports to secure for the American people of present and future generations the benefits of an enduring resource of wilderness. Interest groups often seek to extract from the Act a meaning of wilderness that comports with whatever interest they wish to secure for themselves and their members, and their interests often conflict with each other. These conflicts can turn national parks into sandboxes where interest groups draw lines and ask the National Park Service to pick a side. The losing party inevitably looks to a judge who, in her infinite wisdom, will surely see that wilderness means exactly what the party knows it means. Injunction in hand, the now-prevailing party’s favored use will flourish and all will be right in the world, or at least in wilderness. A microcosm of litigation over competing uses nationally, Olympic National Park in Washington State has played host to its fair share of sandbox showdowns, the presence of historic structures in the park eliciting perhaps the most wide-ranging response from interest groups. This Article examines arguments from those seeking to preserve these structures and those seeking to remove them, and suggests a reading of the Act and its Washington State counterpart that comports with legislative intent.

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