Does the Wilderness Act Prohibit the Game Cart?
The vast wilderness areas in the United States are some of the most treasured spaces in the country. These areas include lush forests, peaceful lakes, mountains, and plains. Unfortunately, these wilderness areas were not always protected national treasures like they are now. They once were open to motor vehicles and any interpretation of a game cart.
Photo courtesy of Russ Meyer at GotHunts.com
In the mid-20th century, the Wilderness Society’s Howard Zahniser became a champion for the American wilderness and began fighting for national protection of these areas. He wanted to preserve these areas for future generations to experience and enjoy, and he set about doing that by writing the Wilderness Act of 1964.
Howard Zahniser spent nearly a decade drafting, revising, and lobbying for the protections afforded under the Wilderness Act of 1964. As the executive director of the Wilderness Society, he knew the need to protect our nation’s wild areas was urgent and great. In September 1964, just a few months after Zahniser’s death, the Wilderness Act he had written was finally signed into law.
The Wilderness Act created the National Wilderness Preservation System, and it enabled the protection of millions of acres of wild spaces in the United States. The purpose of the Wilderness Act is to protect and preserve the wilderness areas for “use and enjoyment of the American people in such manner as will leave them unimpaired for future use as wilderness.” The Wilderness Act prevents the construction of roads and permanent structures within the wilderness areas and protects the lands from mining and logging.
The Wilderness Act was written for the protection and conservation of wilderness areas, which are appreciated by all those in the outdoor sports communities. Most hunters, hikers, and other outdoor enthusiasts work hard to obey the letter and spirit of the Wilderness Act. However, certain parts of theWilderness Act have become outdated in the past fifty years, including the stance the Wilderness Act takes on a hunter’s use of a game cart or hunting cart.
While the Wilderness Act allows for hunting and hiking in certain wilderness areas, it prohibits the use of motor vehicles, motorized equipment, and “other forms of mechanical transport.” Traditionally, “other form of mechanical transport” has been interpreted to include bicycle wheels. This exclusion unfortunately means the use of a game cart is not allowed.
With the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, questions began to arise regarding the use of certain motorized equipment and mechanical transport within the wilderness areas. The United States Forest Service released case guidelines to help wilderness managers make decisions regarding the use of these tools in wilderness areas that would adhere to the Wilderness Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. In one case, a guideline confirmed the use of battery-powered carts for mobility within wilderness areas; however, it disapproved the use of a deer cart for hunters with disabilities.
According to decision makers, a motorized hunting cart or multi-wheeled cart would be too destructive to the land, so they are not allowed according to the Wilderness Act. Thankfully, advances have been made in the structure of game carts and they are now more environmentally friendly and easier to use so they can be manned by a single person.
The progression of tooling efficiency and technological construction has rendered portions of the Wilderness Act out of date. The pinnacle of these advancements can be found in the Honey Badger Wheel. When the “mechanical transport” portion of the Wilderness Act was questioned, bulky, multi-wheeled game carts were the consideration. They were heavy and often had to be handled by two people. However, the Honey Badger Wheel eradicates all of these problems.
The Honey Badger Wheel is a single-wheeled cart that can be folded up and worn into the hunting area on a backpack, so it doesn’t have to be wheeled in. This design cuts down on the amount of time the wheel is actually on the ground. Furthermore, if being used to hike in, it is less impact on trails compared to pack animals. The Honey Badger Wheel weighs less than fourteen pounds, so the impact on the user and the forest floor is light.
The physics of the fulcrum and lever relationship enables the Honey Badger Wheel to be used by a single person. The wheel itself is a high quality bicycle wheel, which offers the least resistance to the user, thus decreasing drag on the forest floor. As it stands, most hunters are dragging deer and elk out on awkward sleds or they are quartering the carcass after field dressing it and lugging it back through repeated trips, which often includes pack animals. Repeated trips on foot or dragging large game across the ground both destroy more foliage and disrupt more habitat areas than a single trip with the Honey Badger Wheel.
Obviously, the best intentions behind the Wilderness Act did not consider the future value and efficiency of the Honey Badger Wheel at a time when bicycles wheels were considered “mechanical transport” and banned from use in the wilderness areas.
This misrepresentation of the Honey Badger Wheel is a perfect example of how archaic portions of the Wilderness Act are. The inclusion of the Honey Badger Wheel into wilderness areas would be an asset to all hunters and hikers, especially those with disabilities. The Honey Badger Wheel’s simple design, efficient handling, and minimal environmental impact make it the premier game cart for protected wilderness areas. Perhaps fifty years is long enough to withstand the vague language found in the “Prohibitions” section of the Wilderness Act. It’s time for the language of the Wilderness Act to catch up with the technology of today’s outdoorsmen.