Timeless Words of Wilderness Untrammeled by Man

Sunday, January 3, 2016 - 8:26am
Photo by Larry Lamsa

Timeless Words of Wilderness Untrammeled by Man


"We cannot have freedom without wilderness…"

These words from Edward Abbey are just one of the powerful phrases voiced in this gorgeous video showcasing vast tracts of North American wilderness. A little over 50 years ago, the U.S. Congress passed the Wilderness Act, establishing the National Wilderness Preservation System "for the permanent good of the whole people" with four types of lands managed by the federal government: national forests, national parks, national wildlife refuges, and lands overseen by the Bureau of Land Management. Since that day in 1964, there has been more than a ten-fold increase in the amount of acreage (from nine million acres to 109 million acres in 762 areas in 44 states) protected and put into preservation since that time.

With powerful words from icons of wilderness and nature — John Muir, Wallace Stegner, Edward Abbey, to name a few — voiced by Duke Beardsley, we are immersed in areas "where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain” and allowed to witness the majestic, neverending aerials and panoramic vistas of this nature's splendor.

As the folks at Vital Films so eloquently put it, "Thanks to the visionaries who saved some wild country." I only wish it were more.


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Trent Gilliss

is the cofounder of On Being / KTPP and currently serves as chief content officer and executive editor. He received a Peabody Award in 2007 for his work on "The Ecstatic Faith of Rumi" and garnered two Webby Awards (in 2005, and again in 2008). The Online News Association nominated his journalistic work multiple times in the general excellence and outstanding specialty journalism categories. Trent's reported and produced stories from Turkey to rural Alabama, from Israel and the West Bank to Cambridge, England.

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This information thrills me. .I was not aware we have Wilderness areas in so many places in the US.
I fully understand the words of Edward Abbey. "We cannot have freedom without Wilderness"
Thank you for the all encommacing subjects you cover Trent Gilliss !

My heart still yearns for wilderness, but I don't necessarily need to be out in it these days; I just need to know it's still there.

"I am glad I shall never be young without wild places to be young in." -- Ed Abbey (?)

I would urge those who still care about the Wilderness to read Stewart Brandborg's Opinion article from December 2015, published widely in Montana. Stewart Brandborg is the last surviving architect of the Wilderness Act of 1964 and served as the executive director of The Wilderness Society from 1964 to 1976.

Excerpts: "The wilderness law has delivered to we who live here an irreplaceable part of our American heritage. The quality of wildness, of autonomous and unfettered nature, was the central concern of those of us who, in the 1950s and early 1960s, wrote and worked for enactment of the Wilderness Act. Now, after a lifetime of work for wilderness, I ask its defenders to never forget: Wildness is foremost the quality of wilderness that we must seek to preserve. It is the forces of nature at full play in the absence of human intent.

Only 51 years ago, when I helped organize the uniquely American popular movement to pass the Wilderness Act, we did not dream of the pace of change and rapid exploitation of natural resources that we face today. In this age of climate change, species extinction and all-too-widespread unraveling of the natural world that we all depend on, it is more critical than ever to preserve what wilderness we have left.
. . . . .

Wilderness is land left to be wild as well as a principled idea. It is the embodiment of reverence for nature and the humility to withhold the hand of man from exploitation. Sadly, such wild land and grace-filled humility seem to be in short supply and disappearing quickly due to dominance by moneyed self interests. We conservationists should not advocate for deals that include release of protected wildland areas or the inclusion of non-conforming, wilderness-damaging uses, baked into the very enabling legislation. Exercising the necessary altruism, we must continue to instill a love for wilderness and rededicate ourselves to the mission of protecting areas for their wildness, using an ecosystem approach based on conservation biology principles, while accommodating traditional recreation to the extent it does not diminish wildness or other wilderness characteristics."