Vehicles and wilderness don’t mix. However, a backdoor deal brokered by Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) has mandated vehicle tours through Cumberland Island’s wilderness area. This week, Cumberland Island released a draft of its plan for vehicle tours on the island, which can be viewed at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/cuis. The public has until October 15 to submit comments. Comments can be submitted via email at CUIS_Transportation@nps.gov
Cumberland Island is the Southeast’s largest and most celebrated barrier island wilderness. In 2004, Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) stealthily placed a rider on a Congressional funding bill that removed wilderness designation for large swaths of the island and mandated vehicle tours. Kingston’s rider was a last-minute, behind-the scenes negotiation that occurred without any public comment. As a result, hikers and backpackers will be dodging vehicle tours on their treks around the island.
Environmental groups are calling for legislation to restore the wilderness and stop the vehicle tours, which they say will jeopardize endangered species and disrupt visitors’ solitude and wilderness experience.