For an eternity, Earth has been a land of wilderness. However, will that statement need to be moderated 50 years from now…?
With the ever increasing needs of a rapidly expanding population, some of that wilderness has already vanished. What comes to my mind immediately is the destruction of parts of the Amazon Forest, but even here in the United States, we are not immune to permanent human encroachment into areas once unknown to us.
This 10-year old article by Wallace Stegner on Mother Earth News is still timely today. And with September being the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Wilderness Act, what better time to highlight the article once again.
“Wilderness, as defined by the Wilderness Act, retains its primeval character — land where “the Earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.”
— the Act declared it to be “the policy of the Congress to secure for the American people of present and future generations the benefits of an enduring resource of wilderness.” Today only 4.67 percent of U.S. land (2.5 percent outside of Alaska) has permanent wilderness designation.
On Dec. 3, 1960, four years before the Wilderness Act was adopted, the following letter was written by esteemed author and conservationist Wallace Stegner (1909-1993) to David Pesonen, a consultant to a commission reviewing the need for wilderness legislation. It received global acclaim and became the manifesto for the wilderness movement. “Even just the last four words, ‘the geography of hope,’ had enough magic to help sway a nation toward a course that would have been unimaginable 50 years ago,” wrote Stegner’s biographer, Jackson J. Benson.”
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