I’ve been to a few backcountry places over the years.
Some protected places that have some form of wilderness designation and are off the beaten path.
Others declared as designated Wilderness Areas but aren’t too wild.
Other places that have no formal wilderness protection but are as remote and wild as anything I’ve explored.
Recent events make me have a gut feeling of ‘Yes’.
Yes that our wild places will become smaller and more isolated islands in a sea of increased use and development.
I remember a couple of years ago experiencing this aspect for myself first hand. A formerly remote, wild and sparse area was changed. The draw for most people was protected. But the night sky was gone. A constant stream of energy truck traffic took away the feeling of remoteness. And the landscape was scarred from the fracking operations. The wildness vanished.
Recent news makes me fear a bit more for the wild places becoming small islands. And perhaps not truly wild because of it.
And when there is a protected parcel, the nature of the area is changing. The fracking ban has been lifted just north of Chaco Canyon. Besides a good chance of the pristine night sky being in danger, we are losing a potential part of our historical record and cultural legacy. This is being done on our public lands. And we, the taxpayers, are subsidizing it.
Tacit recognition that small groups can circumvent the democratic process. A small group can decide policy matters concerning public land for themselves. Our democratic system is not perfect, but it is better than armed insurrections deciding policies for us.
I hope I am wrong, but I see truly wild places becoming the exception rather than the rule.
Public lands becoming privatized. Our national parks being more akin to Disney World than a place for a wilderness experience. And even when a place is protected, the surrounding non-protected areas are impacting upon the experience.
Wildness is not easily described or defined.
But once it is gone, the wildness of an area is often gone for good.
And I see that happening more in the years ahead.
EDIT: Nov 9th, 2016: And with the election results, I’m really concerned.