The Conservation of Wilderness...
Our wilderness problem starts with our population. In 35 years
there probably will be twice as many people on earth as there
are today. There will be more than twice as many in some areas
such as the Pacific West, where living conditions are ideal. A
quickly rising population will be accompanied by shorter work
weeks and more leisure time. This requires intense planning for
the recreational needs of the oncoming generation.
We must design our wilderness blueprint with
the needs of 2000 A.D. in mind.
Multiple use is the standard that governs the
U. S. Forest Service in its administration of public lands and
a standard that is now being extended to lands that are under
the Bureau of Land Management. A piece of land paved for highway
use is dedicated to one single use, not multiple uses. An area
set aside as wilderness under the Wilderness Act of 1964 does
not bar trails, although it does bar roads.
Wilderness use covers a variety of multiple uses - refuges
for elk and goats, hiking and horseback travel, fishing, watershed
protection and the maintenance of the biotic community in complete
ecological balance. These values cannot be preserved if logging,
highways, hot dog stands and motels take over.
Wooded areas can be logged, and campgrounds for autoists can be
built on those sites, those tracts serving these two multiple
uses. But the wilderness advocates do not want those two uses
or highway use to preempt every section of land. We want some
of the original America left in its primitive condition so that
one hundred years from now a lad can walk the hills in the manner
of Daniel Boone and see what God has wrought.
There are dollar values in our mountains to be exploited. But
a tree is measurable not only by its board feet or its cellulose
content, but by its beauty. the wildlife it shelters, the biotic
community it nourishes, and the watershed protection it gives.
There are spiritual values in the mountains that highway engineers,
real-estate promoters, chambers of commerce and editorial writers
often overlook. The Psalmist said, "I will lift up mine eyes
unto the hills from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from
the Lord, who made heaven and earth."
Those values disappear once our alpine meadows are converted into
Swiss alpine resort areas, when the roar of traffic fills the
ridges, when man's last refuge (except the ocean) is converted
to commercial uses.
In other words, multiple use means more than logging trucks and
highways and the exploitation of dollar values.
We need wilderness sanctuaries for a full life. We should ask
those from crowded New England and the crowded Adirondacks to
advise us on the preservation of our other areas. For they have
felt, more than the rest of us, the impact of the population explosion
on wilderness. We should also ask our apartment-born people for
leadership in these conservation causes. For they often appreciate
more than others the value of open space.
William O. Douglas
Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court (1939-1975), former chairman
of of the Securities and Exchange Commission (1937-1939), and
ardent conservationist, William Orville Douglas was one of the
most controversial public figures in American history. Originally
written as liner notes for Pete Seeger's 1966 album, God
Bless The Grass.