Famous Quotes

Founders of The Wilderness Society
flickr, USFS Region 5
Wilderness is more than a natural place, more than a place for recreation. It is a place for inspiration. Hear it from notable public figures, in their own words.

Wilderness is more than a natural place, more than a place for recreation. It is a place for inspiration. Hear it from notable public figures, in their own words.

The below quotes — excerpted from letters, books, papers and official documents — express what wilderness means to us.

Famous Quotes

"If future generations are to remember us with gratitude rather than contempt, we must leave them something more than the miracles of technology. We must leave them a glimpse of the world as it was in the beginning, not just after we got through with it."

“We must not only protect the country side and save it from destruction, we must restore what has been destroyed and salvage the beauty and charm of our cities … Once our natural splendor is destroyed, it can never be recaptured. And once man can no longer walk with beauty or wonder at nature, his spirit will wither and his sustenance be wasted.”

- Lyndon B. Johnson
President of the United States

“If we are to have broad-thinking men and women of high mentality, of good physique and with a true perspective on life, we must allow our populace a communion with nature in areas of more or less wilderness condition.”

- Arthur Carhart
Former official, U.S. Forest Service

“There is a delight in the hardy life of the open. There are no words that can tell the hidden spirit of the wilderness that can reveal its mystery, its melancholy and its charm. The nation behaves well if it treats the natural resources as assets which it must turn over to the next generation increased and not impaired in value. Conservation means development as much as it does protection.”

- Theodore Roosevelt
President of the United States

"Wilderness itself is the basis of all our civilization. I wonder if we have enough reverence for life to concede to wilderness the right to live on?"

"I hope that the United States of America is not so rich that she can afford to let these wildernesses pass by. Or so poor that she cannot afford to keep them."

- Margaret (Mardy) Murie
Former Wilderness Society council member

"Wilderness is an anchor to windward. Knowing it is there, we can also know that we are still a rich nation, tending our resources as we should — not a people in despair searching every last nook and cranny of our land for a board of lumber, a barrel of oil, a blade of grass, or a tank of water."

- Clinton P. Anderson
Senator, New Mexico

“We who are gathered here may represent a particularly elite, not of money and power, but of concern for the earth for the earth’s sake.”

- Ansel Adams
Photographer

“The supreme reality of our time is … the vulnerability of our planet.”

“National parks and reserves are an integral aspect of intelligent use of natural resources. It is the course of wisdom to set aside an ample portion of our natural resources as national parks and reserves, thus ensuring that future generations may know the majesty of the earth as we know it today.”

- John F. Kennedy
President of the United States

“And this, our life exempt from public haunt, finds tongues in trees, books in running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything.”

“One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.”

- William Shakespeare
Playwright

"What a country chooses to save is what a country chooses to say about itself."

- Mollie Beattie
Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

"Without wilderness, we will eventually lose the capacity to understand America. Our drive, our ruggedness, our unquenchable optimism and zeal and elan go back to the challenges of the untrammeled wilderness.

Britain won its wars on the playing fields of Eton. America developed its mettle at the muddy gaps of the Cumberlands, in the swift rapids of its rivers, on the limitless reaches of its western plains, in the silent vastness of primeval forests, and in the blizzard-ridden passes of the Rockies and Coast ranges.

If we lose wilderness, we lose forever the knowledge of what the world was and what it might, with understanding and loving husbandry, yet become. These are islands in time — with nothing to date them on the calendar of mankind. In these areas it is as though a person were looking backward into the ages and forward untold years. Here are bits of eternity, which have a preciousness beyond all accounting."

- Harvey Broome
Co-founder, The Wilderness Society

"The action and tone of his statement leads me to conclude that [Interior] Secretary [James G.] Watt's idea of wilderness is a parking lot without lines."

- Don Edwards
U.S. Representative, California

"The wilderness and the idea of wilderness is one of the permanent homes of the human spirit."

- Joseph Wood Krutch
Writer, critic and naturalist

"Wilderness is the raw material out of which man has hammered the artifact called civilization. Wilderness was never a homogenous raw material. It was very diverse. The differences in the product are known as cultures. The rich diversity of the world's cultures reflects a corresponding diversity. In the wilds that gave them birth."

“A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”

“Land, then, is not merely soil; it is a fountain of energy flowing through a circuit of soils, plants and animals.”

- Aldo Leopold
Co-founder, The Wilderness Society

"In wilderness I sense the miracle of life, and behind it our scientific accomplishments fade to trivia."

- Charles A. Lindbergh
Aviator

"Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountain and the sea, are excellent schoolmasters, and teach some of us more than we can ever learn from books."

- Sir John Lubbock
Vice chancellor, University of London

"There is just one hope of repulsing the tyrannical ambition of civilization to conquer every niche on the whole earth. That hope is the organization of spirited people who will fight for the freedom of the wilderness.

In a civilization which requires most lives to be passed amid inordinate dissonance, pressure and intrusion, the chance of retiring now and then to the quietude and privacy of sylvan haunts becomes for some people a psychic necessity.

The preservation of a few samples of undeveloped territory is one of the most clamant issues before us today. Just a few more years of hesitation and the only trace of that wilderness which has exerted such a fundamental influence in molding American character will lie in the musty pages of pioneer books ... To avoid this catastrophe demands immediate action."

- Robert (Bob) Marshall
Co-founder, The Wilderness Society

“I believe we have a profound fundamental need for areas of the earth where we stand without our mechanisms that make us immediate masters over our environment.”

- Howard Zahniser
Former council member, The Wilderness Society
and principal author of the Wilderness Act

“The land, the earth God gave to man for his home … should never be the possession of any man, corporation, (or) society … any more than the air or water.”

“Laws change; people die; the land remains.”

- Abraham Lincoln
President of the United States

"Wilderness is a necessity ... They will see what I meant in time. There must be places for human beings to satisfy their souls. Food and drink is not all. There is the spiritual. In some it is only a germ, of course, but the germ will grow."

"Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul."

“How hard to realize that every camp of men or beast has this glorious starry firmament for a roof. In such places, standing alone on the mountaintop, it is easy to realize that whatever special nests we make — leaves and moss like the marmots and the birds, or tents or piled stone — we all dwell in a house of one room — the world with the firmament for its roof — and are sailing the celestial spaces without leaving track.”

“The mountains are fountains of men as well as of rivers, of glaciers, of fertile soil. The great poets, philosophers, prophets, able men whose thoughts and deeds have moved the world, have come down from the moutnains — mountain-dwellers who have grown strong there with the forest trees in Nature’s work-shops.

- John Muir
Founder, The Sierra Club

“The land belongs to the future … that’s the way it seems to me. How many names on the county clerk’s plat will be there in fifty years? I might as well try to will the sunset over there to my brother’s children. We come and go, but the land is always here. And the people who love it and understand it are the people who own it — for a little while.”

- Willa Cather
Writer

"The wilderness holds answers to questions man has not yet learned to ask."

- Nancy Newhall
Editor and photography critic

"Wilderness to the people of America is a spiritual necessity, an antidote to the high pressure of modern life, a means of regaining serenity and equilibrium."

“Awareness is becoming acquainted with environment, no matter where one happens to be. Man does not suddenly become aware or infused with wonder; it is something we are born with. No child need be told its secret; he keeps it until the influence of gadgetry and the indifference of teen-age satiation extinguish its intuitive joy.”

- Sigurd Olson
Former council member, The Wilderness Society

"The more civilized man becomes, the more he needs and craves a great background of forest wildness, to which he may return like a contrite prodigal from the husks of an artificial life."

- Ellen Burns Sherman
Writer

"We simply need that wild country available to us, even if we never do more than drive to its edge and look in. For it can be a means of reassuring ourselves of our sanity as creatures, a part of the geography of hope."

"How much wilderness do the wilderness-lovers want? Ask those who would mine and dig and cut and dam in such sanctuary spots as these. The answer is easy: Enough so that there will be in the years ahead a little relief, a little quiet, a little relaxation, for any of our increasing millions who need and want it."

"Something will have gone out of us as a people if we ever let the remaining wilderness be destroyed; if we permit the last virgin forests to be turned into comic books and plastic cigarette cases; if we drive the few remaining members of the wild species into zoos or to extinction; if we pollute the last clean air and dirty the last clean streams and push our paved roads through the last of the silence, so that never again will Americans be free in their own country from the noise, the exhausts, the stinks of human and automotive waste."

- Wallace Stegner
Former council member, The Wilderness Society

"In wildness is the preservation of the world."

- Henry David Thoreau
Writer

"It is imperative to maintain portions of the wilderness untouched so that a tree will rot where it falls, a waterfall will pour its curve without generating electricity, a trumpeter swan may float on uncontaminated water — and moderns may at least see what their ancestors knew in their nerves and blood."

- Bernard De Voto
Historian and writer

"Love is a powerful tool, and maybe, just maybe, before the last little town is corrupted and the last of the unroaded and undeveloped wildness is given over to dreams of profit, maybe it will be love, finally, love for the land for its own sake and for what it holds of beauty and joy and spiritual redemption that will make [wilderness] not a battlefield but a revelation."

- T. H. Watkins
Environmental writer and historian

"Without enough wilderness America will change. Democracy, with its myriad personalities and increasing sophistication, must be fibred and vitalized by regular contact with outdoor growths — animals, trees, sun warmth and free skies — or it will dwindle and pale."

- Walt Whitman
Writer

"If you know wilderness in the way that you know love, you would be unwilling to let it go. ... This is the story of our past and it will be the story of our future."

- Terry Tempest Williams
Writer

“The earth laughs in flowers.”

- Ralph Waldo Emerson
Writer

“What a joy it is to feel the soft, springy earth under my feet once more, to follow grassy roads that lead to ferny brooks where I can bathe my fingers in a cataract of rippling notes, or to clamber over a stone wall into green fields that tumble and roll and climb into riotous gladness!”

- Helen Keller
Author and activist