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Establishing More Great American Wilderness

The Pennsylvania Wilderness Act, passed under the direction of the Eastern Wilderness Areas Act, established what little Wilderness exists in the Allegheny today. This consists of the 8,863-acre Hickory Creek Wilderness and the 382 acres distributed among seven Wilderness Islands in the Allegheny River.

Today, less than 2% of the Allegheny National Forest is designated Wilderness, compared to 10% of total national forest lands in the Eastern Region and 18% of national forest lands across the country.

In many ways the Allegheny National Forest is the birthplace of all federally designated Wilderness. Howard Zahniser, author of the Wilderness Act of 1964 was born in Franklin, PA, and raised in Tionesta in a valley below the Allegheny National Forest. Zahniser's memory is poorly served by the current proportion of Wilderness in the Allegheny.

Opportunities for new Wilderness Areas abound across the Allegheny National Forest. As part of Allegheny Wild! the Allegheny Defense Project has proposed five new Wilderness Areas and an expansion to the previously designated Hickory Creek Wilderness for a total of 50,000 new acres of Wilderness.

Clarion River Wilderness Area

The Clarion River roadless area is one of two inventoried roadless areas left unprotected by legislation. This treasure along the Wild and Scenic Clarion River features a well known cross-country ski trail, excellent back-country hiking possibilities, and an important Wilderness opportunity in the southern part of the Allegheny.

Designation of this Wilderness will provide the enhanced conservation opportunities that the public has been working for along the Clarion River corridor. This area has been recognized for its value to wildlife habitat along and within the Clarion River. And this area would provide an opportunity for canoe-based Wilderness camping as well.

Hickory Creek Wilderness Area

The Hickory Creek Wilderness makes up nearly all of the existing designated Wilderness in the Allegheny National Forest. However, the headwaters for East Hickory Creek were left unprotected despite the fact that they remain almost entirely within adjacent primarily roadless forest. Allegheny Wild! proposes expanding the existing Hickory Creek Wilderness by a modest 1,500 acres in order to protect the headwaters of East Hickory Creek. This expansion would also provide an excellent Wilderness connector along the Tanbark Trail between the existing Wilderness Area and the outstanding Allegheny Front National Recreation Area.

Tionesta Wilderness Area

The heart of the Allegheny Wild! proposal is the Tionesta Wilderness Area. This proposed 20,000-acre Wilderness features one of the largest old growth areas in the eastern United States. Originally conceived in 1996, this proposal was outlined in a paper prepared by the Allegheny Defense Project for the Natural Areas Journal and published in 2001. The Tionesta Wilderness Area also features a 1,538-acre roadless area, the Crane Run Wilderness Trout Stream, the North Country National Scenic Trail, the Twin Lakes Trail, and documented habitat for rare, threatened, and endangered species.

Chappel Fork Wilderness Area

The proposed Chappel Fork Wilderness Area features the largest unprotected roadless area in the Allegheny National Forest. Located east of the Allegheny Reservoir, the area features one of the more popular overnight hiking trails and includes portions of the Chappel Fork watershed, an important but threatened watershed for rare aquatic species.

Minister Creek Wilderness Area

The Minister Creek Valley is one of the better known, most scenic areas in the Allegheny National Forest. This area features a roadless area totalling several thousand acres, numerous exceptional rock outcroppings, large contiguous tracts of older second growth forests, excellent aquatic biodiversity, the North Country National Scenic Trail, and hillsides featuring numerous natural seeps.

Sugar Run Wilderness Area

Featuring a large roadless area, this proposed Wilderness would expand upon the already popular remote recreation opportunities available in the northern section of the Allegheny. Combined with the Tracy Ridge National Recreation Area, the proposed Allegany Recreation Area, and the North Country National Scenic Trail this area will place the Allegheny trail system on a par with most any other eastern forest attractions.

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