Keep it wild
December 11, 2009
I support the Hidden Gems Wilderness Campaign in its totality.
Howard Zahniser spent the last several years of his life advocating for the Wilderness Act. He felt that to know wilderness is to know a profound humility, to recognize one’s littleness, to sense dependence and independence, indebtedness and responsibility. He believed, “We deeply need the humility to know ourselves as the dependent members of a greater community of life.”
This is the ideology, the selfless self-interest, from which Wilderness advocates are acting; it is far from elitist. Again, it is not about greedy hikers, nor is it about an aversion to mountain bikers, etc. Rather, it is about the land and our place within it.
Civilization has its champions; civilization has continued to march on – relentlessly and often thoughtlessly – to ever-deeper reaches of the Earth. With a little here and a little more there, species are exterminated, habitats are destroyed, and ecosystems are disabled. And, in the process, pages are torn out of the book of life – pages written over a period of 4.6 billion years, by a power greater than ourselves, and in a language we still do not understand – pages gone forever. Wilderness advocates are simply trying to maintain some balance to that incessant march of civilization. The Hidden Gems effort aims to preserve a little more here and a little more there; the piecemeal nature of the proposal implies that it is essentially a campaign to preserve “Those Little Bits Left.”
Although these are our back yards, remember these are not our public lands alone. These lands represent the geography of hope for a vast majority of people who will never be reduced to “users” or “consumers” of the “commodity.” Writer Terry Tempest Williams claims she heard it best put at a congressional hearing on Alaska lands. A man in his 20s, a blind piano tuner from Texas, stood up.
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“Gentlemen,” he said, “I may never get up to the Arctic, and I certainly will never see wild Alaska, but in those days when my own world seems dark and small, just to know such places exist will fill my soul with hope.”
I encourage the politicians to set aside the volleyball that is opinion and have the courage to act on behalf of the voiceless and the voteless. The largest special interest group must be heard; they are the foliated, the feathered and the furred. They are the true silent majority. I have yet to hear the scientific argument which claims that more Wilderness is a bad idea. In constructing the architecture of the wild, function ever follows form. Decimate the wilderness and our humanity may follow; gentlemen, these are the sights and sounds of our most ancient religions. Recreation should remain secondary.
Once its ecological integrity and stability are compromised, we cannot make more Wilderness. Look beyond yourself. Look beyond your handlebars. Please, keep it wild – wild for good.
Trevor A. Washko