“In Wildness is the Preservation of the World”

Henry David Thoreau wrote these words in 1862. Today, almost a century and a half later, they are more true than ever before. Mining, forest clear cutting, oil and gas development, and road building are destroying the extraordinary and irreplaceable wilderness that is our natural heritage.

The Wilderness Act, signed by President Lyndon Johnson on September 3, 1964, created a National Wilderness Preservation System so that wild lands, including national parks, national forests, and lands overseen by the federal Bureau of Land Management, would be managed “for the use and enjoyment of the American people in such manner as will leave them unimpaired for future use and enjoyment as wilderness…”  

Today, 45 years later, this prescient legislation seems more essential than ever. Though 109 million acres of land in Alaska and the lower 48 have been protected under the Act, many exquisite regions of forests, prairies, coastlines, mountains, and wetlands remain threatened simply because they haven’t yet been classified as federal wilderness.

Fortunately, citizens and concerned members of Congress are working to protect as much of America’s remaining wild lands as possible. The Alaska Wilderness League (on whose board I served for six years) is striving to secure federal wildernesss status for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The Campaign for America's Wilderness is spearheading wilderness protection campaigns in a dozen statesPresident Obama recently declared September 2009 "National Wilderness Month" and signed the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009, which designated over 2 million acres of wilderness from coast to coast.

But that is not enough. Wild lands clean our air and filter our water. They protect open space from sprawl, and provide much needed wildlife habitat, especially for endangered species.  And increasingly in this shell-shocked, post 9/11 era, people are using wilderness to escape the stress of modern-day life.

Americans are losing 6,000 acres of open space every day, acreage we can ill afford to lose. If we want to protect the environment and the lands that restore our bodies and souls, we need to legislate more land as wilderness, and the sooner the better.

You can help. 

* Make time to explore the nation's wild lands. Become a strong advocate for the untamed nooks and crannies of our country that have helped define our natural heritage for centuries.  

* All wilderness must be created by an act of Congress. Tell your local official to vote for wilderness legislation being proposed by the Campaign for America's Wilderness, the Alaska Wilderness League, and other environmental and consumer groups.

*  Use your purse. Donate to local and national organizations like the Campaign for America's Wilderness and Alaska Wilderness League that are working on your behalf to protect America's wilderness.

For more essays on the importance of conserving our natural resources, read this month's Green Moms Carnival conservation posts; you'll find a directory to them at Mindful Momma.

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11 Responses to “In Wildness is the Preservation of the World”

  1. Beth Terry, aka Fake Plastic Fish September 15, 2009 at 12:50 pm #

    Thank you, Diane. I need to take more time in wilderness to clear out my cluttered brain. How was your trip? 🙂

  2. Green Bean September 15, 2009 at 4:36 pm #

    Great post, Diane. It is important to think beyond our cars and kitchens and remember what the original conservation entailed. This is especially meaningful to me, as a Californian, because California is getting ready to close 100 of its 279 state parks.

  3. Mindful Momma September 16, 2009 at 8:51 am #

    I’m so glad you wrote about this topic Diane! It is so easy to forget about the wilderness as we run about in our busy lives. Yet it is so important. You’ve got me dreaming of hiking in the woods somewhere…

  4. Diane MacEachern September 16, 2009 at 9:10 am #

    As a friend of mine said while we were rafting the Colorado river through the Grand Canyon a few weeks ago, “I feel like such a speck in the universe.” That’s a very helpful perspective to have from time to time, isn’t it?

  5. mother earth aka karen hanrahan September 16, 2009 at 5:48 pm #

    my new home is near a remarkable park – it’s clean, spacious, loaded with really old trees and completely takes my breath away …i am truly grateful that this park is here to fuel my spirit

  6. Jo September 17, 2009 at 12:12 am #

    Fantastic post! Diane, you should check out Ian Kiernan’s new blog (founder of Clean Up the World and leading Australian environmentalist) http://www.cleanuptheworld.wordpress.com – I think you’d enjoy the read

  7. Lisa September 17, 2009 at 10:19 am #

    Great post! I’m worried about California right now with so many of the parks closing. I’m lucky because Oklahoma still has a lot of open spaces.

  8. Anna (Green Talk) September 17, 2009 at 9:11 pm #

    Diane, we spent the day at a beautiful maintained public garden and the magnificent trees just took my breath away. Thanks for posting about our wildlife since we won’t realize what we have until it is gone.

  9. mcmilker September 20, 2009 at 5:43 am #

    Diane,
    Great post as usual! Having just returned from Yosemite, this really rings true with me.

  10. Leslie- La Mama Naturale September 23, 2009 at 9:56 pm #

    Wonderful post! I’m keeping my fingers crossed for CA’s state parks! They all deserve special attention.

  11. Diane MacEachern September 26, 2009 at 1:27 pm #

    I just heard that CA’s parks got a reprieve – Yay! Now…I’m getting off the computer and heading to the park with my dog…

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