Wilderness is to me like a home, a place of happiness and comfort. Not so much physical comfort; rather, an emotional comfort. There is a sense of wilderness as the way a place should be, with a natural feeling of everything there working as it should, not needing to be changed or “improved”. That house is in order. It was created by processes that have proven correct over time.
In wilderness I see and appreciate beauty and harmony in distinct environments as varied as the lands in which they occur, from mountains and valleys to deserts, seashores and jungles, to grasslands, tundra, and islands. I have experienced examples of most of these; and have appreciated images and accounts of the rest brought to us by other travelers. And, I appreciate the plants and creatures that live there. They are like fascinating friends, and interesting strangers too.
I grew up exploring wild places and getting to know what went on there, how they came to be, and who lived there. As time passed, and travels permitted, I got to know what real wilderness was, and how it differed from man-impacted environments. The latter can have appealing attributes, but lack permanence and predictability. Those lands are subject to a variety of future changes that most of us have no control over, nor anticipation of – here today, gone tomorrow.
Humans have an insatiable urge to exploit and control land and its resources for the benefit of whomever gets there first, leaving damaged goods for the rest of us. Hence, wilderness protection insures that some places will remain wild, before they too succumb to the machine.
This is the magic of the Wilderness Act and all that it has enabled. And none too soon, as our population grows and seeks wilderness experiences ever more; while greed drives others to exploit those lands for short-term gain.
Howard Apollonio has been deeply involved in the conservation issues of Alpine Lakes and Olympic Skyline; and was a key member and co-chairman of the Mt Baker Wilderness Association.