Earths wild places cannot be saved by the hands of a few. Policy-makers must become evangelists for public lands
There is no better place from which to take measure of our wild planet and to draw hope from humanity than the summit of a mountain. It was the view from Pikes Peak, after all, that inspired Katharine Lee Bates to write America the Beautiful. One cannot assistance but seem wonder and grace at the vision of” purple mountain majesties” from above.
My first clambers in the Rocky Mountains as a grad student in 1958 changed my life. I was awed by Longs Peak and Colorado’s rugged backcountry. I was also left with an indelible appreciation of appreciation that those places were not only safeguarded, but open and free for everyone to experience and explore.
The democratic ideal symbolized by America’s national park, national forests, and public lands stood in sharp contrast to my experiences in Switzerland where I grew up; so many of Europe’s forests and streams are owned by the powerful and locked behind barriers or castle walls.
Today, this American invention of public ground preservation is spreading around the world. New wildlife reserves are opening in Malawi and Rwanda. Peru and Argentina are creating new national parks. Leaders in Mexico and Canada are prosecuting bold visions for new protected areas.
Wherever philanthropic support can help- whether in the Crown of the Continent in Montana, along the Penobscot river in Maine, or in the grasslands of central and eastern Africa- I have been eager to employ my good fortune to help communities conserve public grounds and waters near them.
Yet today, after six decades of clambering toward summits, I am troubled by two trends.
First, I am worried that- despite real and meaningful the developments on conservation around the world- that we are not moving virtually fast enough to save the last remaining wild places on our planet.
Scientists are documenting an extinction crisis whose intensity the government only beginning to comprehend. The planet’s wildlife, from whales to bugs, are running extinct at a rate that is as much as 1,000 times higher than before human activities began to reconfigure the earth’s ground cover.
The ecologist EO Wilson predicts that, unless we take bold steps to protect land and ocean habitats for wildlife, half of the Earth’s species could go extinct by the end of this century.
Second, I fear that Teddy Roosevelt’s mind of conserving grounds for public utilize , not private employ, is at risk- both in the United States and around the world.
Extractive industries are relentlessly pushing to weaken safeguards for existing protected areas, such as by reducing the size of national monuments in Utah or through illegal logging procedures in the Amazon.
Meanwhile, government policies, including recently proposed fee hikes at America’s national park, can price many families out of their own public grounds.
Even wealthy philanthropists- often motivated by the noble intent of preserving natural meditates- are too often buying and maintaining big land areas in private ownership, off-limits to the broader public. In Wyoming, where I live, and Montana, millions of acres of prime hiking, fishing, and hunting grounds are being locked behind barriers, accessible merely to the elite.
The truth is: earth’s wild places cannot be saved by the hands of a few. The fate of our natural world depends on our collective they are able to conserve our planet and share its rewards with one another.
To slacken the disappearance of natural regions, policy-makers must become evangelists for public lands. And citizens must exercise their rights as owners of public grounds and oceans, and speak up to safeguard their national parks, woods, and marine sanctuaries for future generations.
For their proportion, philanthropists, foundations, and non-profit organizations must both redouble their is supportive of community-led preservation initiatives and safeguard wild areas in public( not private) trust.
For as long as my legs and lungs will allow, I will appreciatively investigate our hollows and plains, and never cease to be awed by the views of the” fruited plain” that simply come from a mountain summit. And I will never stop realizing the conservation ideal that America gifted “the worlds”: that in protecting our natural meditates we ensure that people seem pride in their ownership and is freely to enjoy them. Each investment we induce in preservation is an enduring investment in democracy.
Hansjorg Wyss is a philanthropist who, through the Wyss Foundation, has helped safeguard 27 million acres of public lands around the world. A native of Switzerland, he now lives in Wilson, Wyoming