Why Aren’t All Wilderness Areas Protected?

We have the knowledge of their benefits. We even have the means. But Why Aren’t All Wildernesses Protected? 

Short Blog Version:

The destruction of our wildernesses is a disease, the current plague of man, silent (perhaps not so silent) but deadly. We expand ever so steadily over natural places that are filled with clean air and water to replace it with paved freeways and homes that inevitably become the new source of emissions and smog, a place humans oddly seem to embrace so tenderly. It is a place humans have learned to associate with safety and protection despite its ability to directly make us ill. The fact that smog and dirty water can cause disease and make us ill goes without saying.

Every new national policy seems to favor human life and existence, lacking in the reality that humans are in fact not separate from nature and our wild spaces. A booming population of seven billion does not call for the need or urgency for the protection or conservation of humans in developed countries. If we humans wish to survive the age of innovation and technology of man comfortably, efforts to protect the spaces in which we inhabit should not be marked with hesitation. National laws are created to protect humans, such as mandatory vaccinations protecting us from widespread epidemics. And for the most part people do not question these laws because they favor themselves.

If humans so desperately wish to put forth policies that will directly benefit the [human] species, we should consider the enormous benefits to protecting our wild places as well. The idea that this would prove difficult for people to embrace is a strange one and shows how utterly oblivious we are to our connection with the non-human natural world.

If we continue to point out the direct dangers of using fossil fuels, continuing deforestation, logging, mining and other destructive behaviors has on our own species perhaps people will be more willing to participate in policy making issues. But since the dangers and threats are not immediate, we place them on the back burner for the next generation to handle. The perpetual exploration for fossil fuels, logging, and mining not only exposes the poor management of our resources but actually directly endangers our species. Of course, the dangers posed to wildlife also present themselves in the light our collective exploitation of non-renewables however, history is showing humans do not jump so readily to protect and support wildlife against these dangers. If we did, we would not find the planet to be in its present predicament.

Why then do we continue on this path of destruction? We are not in the darkness of information. We know the effects natural, undisturbed places have on our planet’s overall health. We know wilderness protects watersheds that provide us with clean drinking water. We know that large forested areas contribute to cleaner air important for our survival yet still, it is a battle for a single wilderness area to gain protection through an unnecessarily lengthy process of petition writing, campaigns and rallying which may take many years. Just the fact that wildernesses keep our air and water clean should be enough for all to agree to protect these places. The idea that any party of people would be opposed to the protection of a wilderness area is baffling. For at least 20 years, Republicans in Congress have stood in the way of the America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act which would protect 9 million acres of land. The fight for America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act continues today.

According to the Wilderness Land Trust foundation, our National Park systems contain 26 million acres of unprotected wilderness. That is only considering wilderness areas near National Parks. Many, many more acres of wilderness outside the National Park system still needs protection. Even recreational use of wilderness areas pose a serious threat to surrounding wilderness zones. Inadequate management of pristine areas risks permanently damaging delicate ecosystems. Even the protection of the smallest wildernesses, parks and reserves makes a great impact.

We have President Obama to thank for the protection and preservation of newly designated wilderness areas such as the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument and Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument of New Mexico, as well as the San Juan Island National Monument in Washington. However, despite these achievements, millions of acres of wilderness remain unprotected throughout the country. Wilderness areas such as the beautiful Otero Mesa of New Mexico remains unprotected and threatened by oil and gas exploration, mining and other industrialized threats that would cause irreversible habitat damage. This is just one in many wilderness areas that need our protection.

Learn how you can help here.


 

Long Version Submitted Article:

“A Case for Wilderness: The City in the Mirror”

The destruction of our wildernesses is a disease; the current plague of man, silent (perhaps not so silent) but definitely dangerous. We expand ever so steadily over natural places that are filled with clean air and water to replace them with paved freeways and homes that inevitably become the new source of emissions and smog, a place humans oddly seem to embrace so tenderly. It is a place humans have learned to associate with safety and protection despite its ability to directly make us ill. The fact that smog and dirty water can cause disease and make us ill goes without saying.

In our country, we create policies that generally favor human life and existence, lacking in the reality that humans are in fact not separate from nature and our wild spaces. A booming population of seven billion does not call for the need nor urgency for the protection or conservation of humans. If we humans wish to survive the age of innovation and technology of man comfortably, efforts to protect the spaces in which we inhabit should not be marked with hesitation. Many national laws are created to protect humans, such as mandatory vaccinations protecting us from widespread epidemics. And for the most part people do not question these laws because they favor themselves.

If humans so desperately wish to put forth policies that will directly benefit the [human] species, we should consider the enormous benefits to protecting our wild places as well. The idea that this would prove difficult for people to embrace is a strange one and shows how utterly oblivious we are to our connection with the non-human natural world.

If we continue to point out the direct dangers of using fossil fuels, continuing deforestation, logging, mining and other destructive behaviors has on our own species, perhaps people will be more willing to participate in policy making issues. But since the dangers and threats are not immediate, we place them on the back burner for the next generation to handle. The perpetual exploration for fossil fuels, logging, and mining not only exposes the poor management of our resources but actually directly endangers our species. Of course, the dangers posed to wildlife also present themselves in the light our collective exploitation of non-renewables however, history is showing humans do not jump so readily to protect and support wildlife against these dangers. If we did, we would not find the planet to be in its present predicament.

Why do we continue on this path of destruction? We are not in the darkness of information. We know the beneficial effects natural, undisturbed places has on our planet’s overall health. We know wilderness protects watersheds that provide us with clean drinking water. We know that large forested areas contribute to cleaner air important for our survival yet still, it is a battle for a single wilderness area to gain protection through an unnecessarily lengthy process of petition writing, campaigns and rallying which may take several years! Just the fact that wildernesses keep our air and water clean should be enough for all to agree to protect these places. The idea that any party of people would be opposed to the protection of a wilderness area is baffling. For at least 20 years, Congress has stood in the way of the America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act of southern Utah which would protect 9 million acres of land. The fight for America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act continues today.

North American has some of the greatest expanses of wilderness in the world, yet according to the Wilderness Land Trust foundation, our National Park systems contain 26 million acres of unprotected wilderness. That is only considering wilderness areas near National Parks. Many, many more acres of wilderness outside the National Park system still needs protection. Even recreational use of wilderness areas pose a serious threat to surrounding wilderness zones. Inadequate management of pristine areas also risks permanently damaging delicate ecosystems. Therefore management of these wild places is extremely important. Even the protection of the smallest wilderness, parks and reserves makes a great impact.

We have President Obama to thank for the protection and preservation of newly designated wilderness areas such as as the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument and Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument of New Mexico, as well as the San Juan Island National Monument in Washington. However, despite these achievements, millions of acres of wilderness remain unprotected throughout the country. Wilderness areas such as the beautiful desert grasslands Otero Mesa of New Mexico remains unprotected and threatened by oil and gas exploration, mining and other industrialized threats that would cause irreversible habitat damage. This is just one in many wilderness areas that needs our protection. And don’t even get me started about Shell’s permission to drill in the Arctic wilderness. A striking contradiction to the administration’s previous achievements in wilderness protection.

In the United States we have federal laws that give the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) authority to regulate the discharges of pollutants and harmful air emissions such as the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act. These laws are meant to protect the health and welfare of the public yet, we do not have laws that would make the regulation of harmful emissions accomplishable.

It does not make sense that we could support a Clean Water/Air Act and yet continue to allow natural watersheds and forests to be destroyed. Not protecting our wildernesses is a major contradiction in our nation’s environmental priorities. A simpler approach to the management of clean water and air would be to protect and preserve all wildernesses and other natural places to begin with. This would prevent further destructive and often unnecessary development into areas that naturally promote clean water and air. By cutting back on unnecessary industrialization, especially those that directly replace natural spaces, the regulation of emissions would actually become more manageable. Developmental agencies should be left with no other choice but to make smarter and more sustainable choices in development projects.

Even our cities surrounding hillsides and other untouched natural spaces matter a great deal to our planet’s health and directly effects the health of neighboring cities. But the expansion of a city is surely something to celebrate, right? Expansion after-all, is the epitome of human “progression”, perceived to lead directly to economic growth and wealth. Tourists, businesses and residents will surely fill the newly built and furnished homes and buildings and drive along the newly paved freeways. Then yet again, the once natural expanse of meadows, native plant and animal life is over taken with more than just buildings and sidewalks. Clear skies become cloudy with exhaust and smog, brightly lit stars with fade from view. Grime and oil will lace the once new sidewalks and roads as cars congest extended freeways.

Today we continue to witness cities expand while old and abandoned inter-city buildings and neighborhoods remain unkept. By continuing to allow cities and their developers to willfully expand however and wherever they please suppresses our ability to be truly innovative. Old decrepit neighborhoods of large cities become ignored as cities expand outward into the surrounding hillsides, meadows, mountains and forests. Many of these places are part of a natural network that keep underwater aquifers protected and maintained. Building over or near them jeopardizes our local water supplies. We do not need bigger cities. We need better cities. Every major city contains declining and abandoned neighborhoods. By ignoring old neighborhoods and forgotten downtown ares we promote the social, economic and environmental problems associated with them. Restoration and rebuilding of abandoned buildings and neighborhoods may in fact be fundamental to restoring American’s pride in their big cities.

The fact is, other countries are surpassing the United States in the use of sustainable resources and innovative design. While other countries such as Switzerland, Norway, Germany, Sweden and others rapidly expand their renewable energy systems, embrace sustainable architecture and free recycling services the United States remains stagnant. Wildlife bridges, green rooftops, solar power, large sustainable energy systems and other conscientious ecological design are being executed on a large scale compared to the U.S..

Generally speaking cities are unsustainable. This does not mean every city dweller should abandon their home in the city to adopt a countryside life; this would ultimately prove disastrous, environmentally speaking. Even very large cities can be extremely environmentally friendly. But only if resources are not exploited and if newer and smarter more eco-friendly designs and basic infrastructures are supported. Intelligent management of resources can promote ecotourism and profit just the same as our old ways of conquering the land through development and expansion, and maybe even more so. This is because by carefully managing our resources we protect our wildernesses and other natural places too. A beautiful mountain range rivals any outlet shopping mall any time, day or year. Especially in regards to tourists. Convenience is secondary; tourists want to see beauty. I am sure people would also like to see clear skies and breathe clean air too.

Yet, just as we continue to dapple dangerously in the use of the ever so outdated fossil fuels the methods developers use to “improve” cities is also terribly outdated. The convenience of grading level a natural landscape to build cookie-cutter style homes and shopping centers seems to contradict the idea of improvement of an area. Nature needs no improvement. Nature needs protection and preservation. Eco-tourism is a hot market today. But cities are failing to build upon the idea that keeping natural places alive and untouched adds the greatest value to any city. Tourists and residents both want beauty. Natural beauty equals true value.

In my own city of El Paso, Texas local environmentalists are struggling to protect the natural beauty of our only mountain range, the Franklin Mountains. The Franklin Mountains are a unique range marking the southernmost tip of the Rocky Mountains. El Paso is the only city of its size with a beautiful mountain range right in its center. It is a truly unique place with a rich and fascinating natural and cultural history. Yet despite the fact the Franklin Mountains are our city’s greatest natural asset, developments have been degrading the mountains on either side of the range at an alarming rate, creating irreversible habitat damage. And when the city reports about its up and coming developments they chose words like “improving roads” when they are in fact defacing wild mountains. Expansion is not only taking place near our mountains, developments are also expanding further into the surrounding natural landscape. This is not an improvement and it certainly isn’t sustainable.

So, how does the way the way in which cities build influence our attitude towards wilderness areas? Wilderness or wild-ness is not only found at the end of a long road-trip at a renowned National Park. Wild-ness is every where and we depend upon it. The idea of protecting wilderness needs to extend into our cities and towns as well. The fact that a city would willfully deface its only natural asset is alarming. This is not only happening locally, it is happening nationwide and it is an issue of misplaced priorities and lack of innovation. By continuing on the destructive path we have chosen we are telling the world that we are a species stagnant in our thinking and that we are lacking in the ability to think outside of the box of exploitation. That, it is our way to be destructive and we cannot change. Of course any reader out there would [hopefully] be thinking, “No! We are better than this! We can make the necessary changes for a better planet/life/environment…” etc. If not, than we surely have failed.

 

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