Wild places: Islands in the sea?


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.

And others.

But will the wild places become small islands in an increasing sea of crowds, development, increased demand for connectivity,  light pollution, energy exploration and other pressures?

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.

More states are contemplating privatizing their public land.   And in some cases already in the process of closing the lands to the public.

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.

Then there is the unexpected finding of “not guilty” in the Bundy’s armed occupation of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge.

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.

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
7 years ago

It is crazy how far truck sounds travel in the night. Family has some land that works for a quick get away with no prep, but they jus built a large toll highway next too it. The noise has completely changed the feel and the experience.

Douche P.
7 years ago

I hope you’re wrong too, but you aren’t. The Bundy’s had support from local and state politicians in the West, so much that it helped degrade the conspiracy case against them (amongst other factors of course). Read about the organization COWS sometime whom were also big Bundy supporters. They’ve only become emboldened by the acquittal and are just getting started IMO. No matter who wins the election, they’ll have more energy for their movement. If HRC wins, they’ll continue to fear that their guns will get took. If Trump wins, they’ll feel they really have the wind at their backs.… Read more »