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Edited by: John Stewart

The Wildlands Project Comes to Hidalgo County - Part 4

The Wildlands Project’s Mission

by: Judy Keeler

The Wildlands Project becomes a little confusing until one realizes there is an organization called the Wildlands Project, with headquarters in Tucson, Arizona, and an actual document, also referred to as the Wildlands Project.

Just as the Sky Island Alliance has a 220 page plan for a 70,000 square mile preserve in New Mexico, Arizona, and Mexico, so the Wildlands Project has an 87 page Master Plan. This Plan, however, is not limited to a specific geographic area, only to ones’ imagination.

A copy of the Wildlands Project's Plan lay on my desk for over a year before I finally read it. Published in a special issue of “Wild Earth”, a quarterly publication of the Cenozoic Society - 1992, 75,000 copies were distributed to activists, the majority mailed to federal and state agencies with oversight responsibilities for wildlife and land-use planning.

The subtitle for the Plan is appropriately entitled, “Plotting a North American Wilderness Recovery Strategy”. After reading the Plan, I concluded it was such a far-fetched concept that no on could take it seriously. Unfortunately, over the years, I’ve been proven wrong, as more and more federal and state agencies appear to be adopting the conservation principles presented in the Plan.

The actual Master Plan is divided into 18 chapters, including, the Project’s Mission Statement, prepared by Dave Foreman, David Johns, Michael Soule, Reed Noss and John Davis. I quote, “[t]he mission of The Wildlands Project is to help protect and restore the ecological richness and native biodiversity of North America through the establishment of a connected system of reserves.” The mission continues, “[t]he land has given much to us; now it is time to give something back – to begin to allow nature to come out of hiding and to restore the links that will sustain both wilderness and the spirit of future human generations.”

“The idea is simple. To stem the disappearance of wildlife and wilderness we must allow the recovery of whole ecosystems and landscapes in every region of North America. Allowing these systems to recover requires a long-term master plan.”

Their vision is also simple, it involves “living for the day when Grizzlies in Chihuahua have an unbroken connection to Grizzlies in Alaska” and Gray Wolves “are continuous from New Mexico to Greenland”. Vast areas must be set aside so wildlife and plants can “once again thrive and support pre-Columbian species”.

Based on the conviction that wildlife and plant species are in extreme peril, the Master Plan claims “existing Wilderness, Parks and Wildlife Refuges are not adequately protecting life in North America.” True to Chicken Little, the sky is falling: “Large predators are imperiled in much of their habitat; songbirds, waterfowl and shorebirds are reaching new lows; native forests have been extensively cleared; and tall and short grass prairies have been almost entirely destroyed or domesticated”.

In addition to visioning reserves for wildlife and plants, the Wildlands Project calls for wilderness areas to be home “for unfettered life, free from industrial human intervention”. “Vast landscapes without roads, dams, motorized vehicles, powerlines, overflights, or other artifacts of civilization”, must be designed to save biodiversity.

Michael Soule, conservation biologist, speaks in the Chapter entitled, “A Vision For The Meantime”. Soule, according to his biography, was the founder and first president of the Society for Conservation Biology, is chair of Environmental Studies at the University of California at Santa Cruz, and has acted as a consultant on matters related to biological diversity for many agencies and organizations.

In this chapter, Soule advises Wildlands Project supporters to take their time implementing the Plan. Why adopt a politics of patience? “The answer is fear, fear on the part of those folks who believe they will lose their jobs as loggers or miners, have to abandon their way of life as ranchers, professional guides or commercial fishermen, and be forced to move from the region where their families have been living for generations.”

Soule believes the conservationists’ task is to “remove the fear from people who see themselves threatened by attacks on their occupations, their livelihoods, their world view, and their property”.

John Davis, editor of the “Wild Earth” newsletter, in his chapter, “WE Role in the Wildlands: The Role of Wild Earth in the Wildlands Project”, expresses his calling more candidly. Davis claims the “Wild Earth” is an independent publication serving biocentric wildland groups, including The Wildlands Project and the groups involved in the Project.” Via the “Wild Earth”, Davis intends to publish articles “on successful wilderness protection strategies, natural history essays, conservation biology teachings, musings on deep ecology, ideas for reversing the human population explosion, and warnings and threats to wild areas”.

Exposing his disdain for humanity, Davis writes, “’Wild Earth’ exists in part to remind conservationists that in the long run all lands and waters should be left to the whims of Nature, not to the selfish desires of one species which chose for itself the misnomer ‘Homo sapiens’, humanizing of landscapes must stop now and be reversed.”

Summarizing his thoughts on the Plan, Davis concludes, “[d]oes all the foregoing mean that Wild Earth and The Wildlands Project advocate the end of industrial civilization? Most assuredly.”

Next week The Wildlands Project: Conservation Biology

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