One of the most romantic environmental laws of all time turns 50 in 2014. That’s the Wilderness Act, a law so beautifully written it could appear in a book of essays. I mean, let’s talk about the definition of wilderness itself: “A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” Right?
Wilderness areas face very different challenges today than they did 50 years ago. Technology threatens to alter our experience of remoteness and self-reliance, airplanes are a near constant presence, and of course, climate change means the footprint of man is ubiquitous. To get a sense of the status of the wilderness experience in 2014, I interviewed Troy Hall, a professor and head of the department of conservation social sciences at University of Idaho. Here’s a bit of what she had to say. For more, read the full interview here.
On finding solitude in crowded wilderness areas: “People are really adaptable. Even where they run into a lot of people they often will say, “it was busy on the trail but when I got to a lake I could find a beautiful area where I was by myself.””
On attracting a more diverse crowd to wilderness areas: “Wilderness and things like watershed protection, clean air and wildlife habitat are extremely well-supported across demographic groups in society. So even demographic groups that don’t visit wilderness tend to place very high value on it.”