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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.
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.
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
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.
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.