Wilderness: America's Living Heritage

Wilderness: America's Living Heritage

Wilderness: America's Living Heritage

Wilderness: America's Living Heritage

Excerpt

Wilderness was the frontier and Progress celebrated its retreat. As we destroyed wilderness, it built us. If the warp of our national fabric was traced in the threads of our move westward, the weft was the wilderness we moved over and under and through. Without it our fabric would have been a flimsy thing, transparent, too easily tattered to meet the tests that came. But we had wild grandeur, and its ruggedness was reflected in what our fathers did. We see its gleam in their mettle.

They forged on to submerge the old culture along the Pacific so rapidly that they passed through the wilderness without destroying it all. The easy tendency now is for us to turn around, rearm, and clean out the last few strongholds for the iota their resources can add to our national growth, for the few minutes an utter exploitation can postpone our day of reckoning.

The iota is there. The few areas of unbroken forest, for example, could indeed add to the timber economy, and most of them are being extinguished to do just that. They are but a vestige, however, of our inheritance; the rest has already been converted into the capital necessary for a nation to grow. We are now in the late autumn of the era which could exploit the virgin forests, and if we have learned anything from the Pilgrim fathers, we know it is time to hold out the reserves that will see us through the winter or serve a transcending purpose.

Today we realize the hazard of using up the last of any resource and are learning to protect the remnants, especially of wilderness. In meeting the revised needs of man, we are saving some unrevised works of God. As Newton Drury has said well, this nation is not so poor that it must expend its beauty, nor so rich in beauty that it can afford to. We are becoming poor in wilderness faster than most of us know. It is said that there are only two places left in the lesser United States where one can get more than ten miles from a road. This is shocking if true, and its truth is attested by two officers who studied intracontinental access for the army in World War II. Whether there are two or ten doesn't make much difference. The speed of loss is great, there are few remote . . .

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