John Muir Wilderness
Photo by: Sierrawild.gov
National Wilderness Month marks a time for considering what wilderness means to us as individuals and as a nation. Ironically, this Wilderness Month comes during one of the most anti-wilderness Congresses in modern history.
Throughout the current Congress, wilderness protection has been under severe assault. If anti-wilderness members of Congress have their way, we'll soon see funding cuts for conservation programs and land give-aways to industry and oil and gas. Not only that, but 27 wilderness designation bills that have worked their way up from the states are now stalled out in Congress.
Here are ten reasons why we need wilderness, a month dedicated to celebrating it -- and for Congress to get with the program:
1. Wilderness preserves our heritage. Protected wilderness is a uniquely American idea, and preserving lands allows us to imagine the wild country our ancestors once traversed. Since 1964, designated wilderness in the U.S. has grown from the original 9 million acres to now 110 million acres. These wild acres are owned by every American.
2. Wilderness ensures public health. Wilderness ensures we have clean water for drinking and healthy air for breathing. It doesn't get more fundamental than that.
3. Because drastically cutting wilderness funding is not ok. As Congress is tasked with creating a deficit reduction package this fall, they are looking at making severe cuts to wilderness programs. As a result many programs and wildlife refuges and parks could close. Such cuts will also undermine anti-poaching programs, putting bears, wolves and other target wildlife at risk.
4. Wilderness safeguards wildlife. While we continue to grow cities and develop rural areas, many species are losing their habitats. Wilderness provides homes for a magnitude of species, some of which are disappearing from our planet.
5. Wilderness offers enjoyment and a place to connect. People travel near and far to enjoy wilderness for its spectacular recreation experiences, from canoeing to climbing and hiking to horseback riding.
6. Wilderness gives scientific understanding. What better place to study organisms than in their natural state? Preserving ecological treasures allows us to witness entire ecosystems working in harmonious rhythm.
7. Wilderness is good for the economy. Wilderness fuels local economies and provides jobs. According to a recent outdoor recreation report, the outdoor recreation economy has grown despite the recent recession, proving the lasting value of wild places.
8. Because threats to wilderness are many. Despite all of the above reasons, some just don't see wild spaces as more than just places to drill for oil and gas. If we want future generations to see the splendor of the Grand Canyon for themselves, we can't let these threats continue.
9. To celebrate our special wild places. Almost all Americans (81% according to a recent report) have been to a National Park and witnessed its grandeur with their own eyes. These memories last a lifetime, and these places deserve to be treasured forever.
10. Because action is needed today! Nearly every Congress since the Wilderness Act has designated wilderness – until now. The current Congress is on track to become one of the most anti-wilderness Congresses in history. You can help here and let this month be a time during which you let your representatives know what these lands mean to Americans!