· Reading Time: 3 minutes

The American Public’s Stake in Wilderness

     Despite the fact that the Wilderness Act (PL 88-577) was established in excess of fifty years ago, American wildlands are confronted with a developing quandary. In the interim, ever advancing commercial developments have resulted in fewer roadless regions across the landscape, while an increasing percentage of Americans have become disconnected from experiences in the wild country (Cordell, Bergstrom, & Bowker, 2005). Although it’s true that more land than ever before is now protected as a part of the National Wilderness Preservation System (NWPS), new additions have slowed in recent years. Meanwhile, private commercial interests that desire massive deregulations have amassed additional political powers and are using these new capacities to advance an agenda that ultimately erodes public acceptance of wilderness values.

     The successes enjoyed by these profiteers, have primarily been achieved through a concerted effort to push political candidates to adopt non-compromising political positions, by way of regulating the funding and support received to those of us whom hold political aspirations (Dunlap, McCright , & Jerrod, 2016). These influences should not be underestimated because they’ve discovered mechanisms that compel a subset of Americans to attribute various multisided and complex problems, especially for individuals with legitimate economic anxieties, to blame progressive policies as government intrusions that seek methods to kill jobs and takeaway liberty. Humans are emotionally reactive creatures and through exploiting these sensitivities, they’ve succeeded in undermining ideas that make important contributions to the preservation of wilderness.

     The current state of the American political system is of great concern because the multitude of messages attacking federal land ownership and the science supporting climate change concerns have resonated and are eliciting an emotional response in some voters. In addition, the scapegoating used to undercut differing perspectives throughout the debate over numerous complex issues has led to a deterioration in public trust, and a breakdown in cooperation among the American people (Pew Research Center, 2015). However, if wilderness advocates and other leaders find the means to properly educate and communicate the truth of the matter, wilderness preservation is one topic that has the potential to unite Americans from wildly different backgrounds. Federally held public lands, including regions consisting of the National Wilderness Preservation System, are owned by all Americans, and every one of us has an interest in the future of this resource.


Cordell, H. K., Bergstrom, J. C., & Bowker, J. (2005). The Multiple Values of Wilderness. State College, PA: Venture

Dunlap, R. E., McCright , A. M., & Jerrod, Y. H. (2016). The Political Divide on Climate Change: Partisan Polarization Widens in the U.S. Enviornment.

Pew Research Center. (2015). Beyond Distrust: How Americans View Their Government. Retrieved from http://www.people-press.org/2015/11/23/beyond-distrust-how-americans-view-their-government/

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments