I was recently asked to review an unpublished article which delved into the
importance of fostering, preserving and garnering increased support for the
Wilderness Ethic enshrined within the 1964 Wilderness Act. I look forward to
reading that excellent article in print.
In the meanwhile, I'd like to draw attention to a very different and
disturbing article published in 2000 which enumerates the dramatic shift now
taking place with respect to the Wilderness Ethic. Rather than fostering,
preserving and garnering support for the ORIGINAL Wilderness Ethic, these
authors describe a radically altered Ethic -- one that bears no relationship to
the Wilderness Act or to the purposes for which the enduring resource of
Wilderness was originally established. The piece, which I view as presenting an extremely
probable future, is titled "Wilderness in the 21st Century
". It could just as
appropriately been titled, "The End of Wilderness."
Selected text appears below with a link to the original and complete
--- begin quoted ---
International Journal of Wilderness AUGUST 2000 . VOLUME 6, NUMBER 2
WILDERNESS IN THE 21ST CENTURY
BY WILLIAM E. HAMMITT and RUDY M. SCHUSTER
Demographic shifts forecast that the U.S. population will double within
the next 100 years and that immigration will account for a large
portion of it. Americans, Asians, Hispanics, and others who were
previously unaware of wilderness, as well as international
recreationists, will account for a larger portion of wilderness users.
These new users will bring epistemologies that are incongruent with the
"American Wilderness Ethic" that was originally used to found the
Wilderness Preservation System. Increased cultural pluralism will
result in an expanded Wilderness Ethic. While "purists" will maintain
the Wilderness Ethic, new users will adapt the ethic to be congruent
with their epistemologies. New user groups with varying demands will
attempt to (1) pressure administrators to ease wilderness regulations
(2) de-list some existing wilderness areas, and (3) enact less rigorous
regulations in future areas added to the system.
The perceptions and desires of wilderness users will change
considerably over the next 100 years. Users will demand more efficient
use of their limited time when visiting wilderness and more intensive
management of resources to facilitate that use, resulting in easier
accessibility and less effort and self-reliance.
Users will maximize leisure time through extensive trip-planning
methods, including computer/Internet sources, guidebooks, videos, and a
fast-expanding telecommunications network of wilderness information.
Wilderness trip planning, and actual trips, may take on the efficiency
of "pseudo AAA-planned for you" visits in the future. The decrease in
leisure time, increase in wilderness information, and accessibility
will interact resulting in users opting for more structured wilderness
Wilderness users will increasingly rely on outfitters, guides, and
outdoor education services to facilitate ecotourism and wilderness
adventures. Facilitated wilderness adventures that are "sold" using
photographs, detailed accounts of what will be encountered, and other
marketing techniques will be a significant factor altering the
character of the traditional wilderness experience.
Senior citizens, day users, families, and organized groups will find
these aided, userfriendly wilderness trips desirable. These "wilderness
clients" will find it difficult to differentiate between experiences
provided by outfitters and guides and more traditional, self-reliant
wilderness experiences. Users engaging in this type of wilderness
recreation will have high and specific expectations of what they will
receive for their money.
More wilderness users desire to enhance the "wild" in wilderness by
engaging in high-adventure, high-risk activities. These adrenaline
related activities ... may be as dominant in the next 100 years as
backpacking solitude is today.
In conclusion, the density and diversity of wilderness use will change
during the next 100 years. The challenge for wilderness managers and
policymakers will be to meet the needs of these new users, while
ensuring the health and protection of wildlands.