Redesignation of Wilderness
For many years, the Greyfield Inn, as well as the National Park Service, operated motorized commercial tours through the wilderness. They did so knowingly and in direct defiance of federal Wilderness legislation and protection.
In 2004, the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court ruled that these tours were illegal and must cease. In response, Greyfield Inn lobbied for the removal of Wilderness designation from several parts of the island – specifically to accommodate their vehicle tours.
Just a few months later, Congressman Jack Kingston (GA-R) added a rider to the Omnibus Spending Bill just hours before it passed, removing those tour routes from Wilderness designation. It also removed the beach and large swaths of the north end of the island.
Why is this so important to understand?
This was the most substantial removal and fragmentation of Wilderness in U.S. history. The public is still mostly unaware of the deed.
It takes an act of Congress to designate an area as wilderness.
Only about 5% of the entire United States is protected as Wilderness. Alaska contains just over half of America’s wilderness, so only about 2.7% of the contiguous United States (an area about the size of Minnesota) is protected as wilderness.