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Managing Wilderness: An Oxymoron

April 13, 2015  |  Ear to the Sand

Wilderness: What is it today? Wilderness is made up of various ecological systems that include animal life, plants, micro-organisms, soil, minerals – all the bits and pieces present – functioning as an interdependent network. The integrity of these systems requires that humans take a hands-off approach and allow weather, naturally occurring (lightning ignited) fires, and other natural cycles to shape and alter the dynamic ongoing processes within the system.

Protecting Wilderness: This means minimizing human impacts.

“Managing Wilderness:” This is an oxymoron. Wilderness systems are sensitive to human interference. Any tampering or tweaking has widespread consequences beyond the intended purpose, consequences that can subtly and profoundly alter the interconnected web, those processes and participants on which the whole system relies. The idea that humans can “restore natural systems” is a travesty, since we can see only a tiny fraction of the impacts of our actions on the systems. Any actions, e.g. burning or clearing, have vast consequences within these interdependent webs, far beyond whatever is intended, or even what we can notice.

—Excerpt from Cumberland Island Newsletter April 2015

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