Why We Need Wilderness

Within designated wild areas, the Wilderness Act allows research and recreation, such as hiking, canoeing and camping, but prohibits mechanized vehicles and all development — including road building, logging and drilling.

| August/September 2004

Sept. 3 marks the 40th anniversary of the signing of the Wilderness Act, the landmark federal legislation that preserves more than 105 million acres of wild land throughout the United States. Within designated wild areas, the Act allows research and recreation, such as hiking, canoeing and camping, but prohibits mechanized vehicles and all development — including road building, logging and drilling. Wilderness, as defined by the 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.”

Proposals are pending to protect millions more wild acres — 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.

To locate wilderness areas near you, visit

Wilderness Letter

Dear Mr. Pesonen:

I believe that you are working on the wilderness portion of the Outdoor Recreation Resources Review Commission’s report. If I may, I should like to urge some arguments for wilderness preservation that involve recreation, as it is ordinarily conceived, hardly at all. Hunting, fishing, hiking, mountain-climbing, camping, photography, and the enjoyment of natural scenery will all, surely, figure in your report. So will the wilderness as a genetic reserve, a scientific yardstick by which we may measure the world in its natural balance against the world in its man-made imbalance. What I want to speak for is not so much the wilderness uses, valuable as those are, but the wilderness idea, which is a resource in itself. Being an intangible and spiritual resource, it will seem mystical to the practical-minded — but then anything that cannot be moved by a bulldozer is likely to seem mystical to them.

6/5/2016 6:29:43 PM

Only hikers and horse back riders are allowed in Wilderness Areas. No aircraft, helicopters or cruise ships allowed, thank you! All you need is hiking shoes, which are any shoes with lugs on the outer soles. Now you can even get tennis shoes and sandals with lugs on the soles, at discount sporting goods stores for less than staying in a hotel one night (and get to keep the shoes). I hike in Wilderness Areas low budget. See the following book: "Search for solitude : our wilderness heritage". Search for that title at to find it in a library near you. Get some hiking shoes and go out and see what America used to look like!

6/2/2016 6:11:10 PM

Contrary to what the author states, 'We the People' do NOT need, nor should we want, 'Wilderness Areas' as defined by the radically Left 'Environmentalists' (they don't care about the environment, nor that the average American should be able to access it). 'Wilderness Areas' are for RICH ELITISTS who can afford to go to such places, which require VERY expensive modes of transportation to access. The 'average Joe/Josephine' get to see only the periphery of such areas, during cruises, or sight seeing tours, for which they quite often must saved for decades to afford to go in the first place! To see the interior of such areas, one must be able to afford private planes, helicopters, and guides, all of which costs tens of thousands of dollars, on top of the cost of transportation to the 'hub' areas which provide access to the even more expensive private aircraft that fly into the interior. Average Americans will NEVER see what is in such 'Wilderness Areas', because they CANNOT REACH those areas, due to limited financial ability to access those areas. 'Wilderness Areas' are a euphemism for 'Only Rich Elites May Enter'.

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