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Why Bother to Protect Wilderness?

Why Bother to Protect Wilderness?

In wilderness, nature rules.

Wilderness is nature in the raw–a place undeveloped, untrammeled and unspeakably beautiful. It’s a place open and accessible to anyone–sportsmen, anglers, hikers, backpackers, equestrians, climbers and others–who are willing to venture out and survive, if even for a short while, at the mercy of their wits and the elements.

A bill on the threshold of passage in Congress will dramatically expand the system which protects our public wildlands. The National Wilderness Preservation System will grow by about 2 million acres should the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act pass the U.S. House of Representatives. It has already cleared the Senate, and President Barack Obama is expected to sign it.

The bill is a celebration of all our wild places, all of which are open and accessible to you and all Americans who are willing and able to venture forth into untamed territory and test themselves against the elements under their own power and without the assistance of mechanized vehicles.

Wilderness is for everyone, and, if this bill passes, you’ll be able to experience it in places like Utah’s Zion National Park. Even with its frontcountry crowds, Zion embodies the idea of wilderness–a rugged canyonland of naked sandstone where humans are only visitors who do not linger. If you’ve ever hiked to Kolob Arch–one of the longest in the world–waded the Virgin River narrows or climbed down into the cavernous Subway, you know what I mean when I say this place is wild.

Take a hike off of Trail Ridge Road at Rocky Mountain National Park, and you’ll have the quintessential Colorado wilderness experience. This is a place where nature demands you use all your senses and judgment as you summit 14,255-foot Longs Peak or glissade down a glacier to the edge of a high alpine lake echoing with the chirps of pikas. Nearly 3 million people visit the park each year, but the wild is only as distant as the nearest trailhead. When the Omnibus bill passes 250,000 acres of this park will be designated wilderness.

Why are our 107.3 million acres of wilderness over 704 designated wilderness areas so important? They’re important because the ecological integrity of our communities, wildlife habitat, watersheds and national parks and even scientific research depend on them. They’re important because they represent the ultimate escape from frenetic cities and towns, affording those who visit them an opportunity to experience nature at its most pristine and untamed and to put civilized life into perspective with the natural world.

Wilderness is Colorado’s iconic Maroon Bells and Alaska’s formidable Denali–the highest mountain in North America. Wilderness is the primeval woods of North Carolina’s Cold Mountain or the cypress knee-studded swamplands of South Carolinas Hell Hole Bay and Congaree National Park. It’s the windswept slopes of Yosemite, the wandering dunes of Death Valley, the headwaters of Georgia’s Chattooga River and the vast rugged expanse of Idaho’s River of No Return country. It’s also the rolling bison pasturelands of Nebraska’s Fort Niobrara and the sand dunes on Fire Island, almost within view of the skyscrapers of New York City.

These are your wildlands–icons of America’s natural heritage and identity. 

Other lands the Omnibus bill protects, such as national monuments and national conservation areas, are also wild, but they’re not necessarily designated wilderness. Conservation areas are some of the nation’s more obscure, but no less important and beautiful, public lands that incorporate both wilderness areas and lands that are managed for a variety of uses in one protected landscape. This bill will create the Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area in Colorado and the Prehistoric Trackways National Monument in New Mexico while ensuring that the system that protects Utah’s canyon-riddled Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and other monuments like it stays in place well into the future.

The passage of this bill means more of our land–national parks, national forests, national wildlife refuges and all our other public lands–are protected for future generations and for the ecological integrity of our nation. It means your kids and grandkids will have more land to experience in its most natural state and immerse themselves in a place that is truly extraordinary: wilderness–where nature rules.

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By Bobby Magill

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16 comments

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10:32AM PDT on Aug 1, 2011

Trees and other plants are very important. A world without them and without animals is it that what we want? Hopefully not. In my case, i love trees, plants and animals.
Other animals and plants have to go only because "we" humans do not want to share the world with other life forms, these life forms "we" would not eat (vegetarian food is not a bad idea, or eating with conscience as the so called primitive cultures did and still do, if they still exist. No meat/fish every day). "We" destroy everything around us and "we" forget, that everything is important to survive, too.

As little child i thought that rain is when God and the angels cry - because "we" humans have forgotten that we need this "intelligence", someone who could help... if "we" hadn't turned away for many centuries ago...

"Only when the last tree has been cut down; Only when the last river has been poisoned; Only when the last fish has been caught; Only then will you find that money cannot be eaten." (Native American proverb)

"We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish, but we have not yet learned the simple art of living together as brothers." (Martin Luther King)

5:43AM PST on Feb 22, 2011

Well nature is very powerful but people always come up with new ideas to destroy it ultimately the nature is losing and we need to protect it from ourselves

8:24PM PST on Mar 3, 2009

Why bother to protect wilderness? Stupid question! Why see a doctor when you are unwell? To get well & feel better. It's a MUST to see the doctor when one is unwell. Just like it's a MUST to Protect the WILDERNESS! The wilderness is NOT ours to destroy, it's ours to Protect, Appreciate, Admire, Treasure...!

8:57PM PST on Feb 26, 2009

Wilderness areas and all the flora and fauna that depend upon it helps restore my soul.

If you want to help protect and preserve it then "Be the change you want to see".

9:49PM PST on Feb 24, 2009

respect our wildlife an let them live where know an live in peace. roxanne

7:50PM PST on Feb 21, 2009

I am so happy to see that other people feel the same way about our Planet. I am so deeply saddened by how people carelessly throw rubbish around, waste water, use their cars for 2 minute trips, kill animals for fun or just killing animals senselessly. A lot of people have forgotten where we come from. The media tries to brainwash us about what we need: a new car, a new washing machine, new clothes, new shoes, processed food, movies.. and so on.. this world is going so crazy, what happened to children enjoying playing in the garden, playing outside, people going for walks in nature instead of sitting inside watching TV or on the computer. we are becoming antisocial, unnatural, programmed by the media around us. We must protect the wilderness that we have left now, if we don't do anything now it will be too late. what will happen to our future generations? they will never know what it meant to breathe in the smell of pine trees, listen to the silence and the song of birds in a forest, will never know what a polar bear looks like...

11:06AM PST on Feb 20, 2009

We are just a part of Wilderness; it doesn't belong to us! It's where future generations will grow up and live.

10:58AM PST on Feb 20, 2009

Without our WILDERNESS places we will be living in a cesspool. It's really as simple as that. NOT to mention that we'll eventually become extinct - we NEED the wilderness!

9:05AM PST on Feb 20, 2009

If we looked on nothing but on the conceptions of our brains, we would lose the connection to real life (included our own). Nature that is not influenced by us - wilderness - is our great teacher of the admirable connections, interrelations with those fascinating dynamic equilibria that keep the participants alive within the living "network". It's necessary to care for the knowledge of all that - and to care for the strong loving feeling for it; only then we have a chance to stay alive ourselves as a part of this whole family of life. Thanks to Bobby for his question and answer, and to all above for their touching comments.

8:41AM PST on Feb 20, 2009

If I didn't have the wilderness to go to take in all that it offers my life would be incomplete. The peace and calm could never be replaced.

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