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Why wilderness?

Wilderness for wildlife

Ecology (rooted in Latin, oikos- "house, dwelling place, habitation" and -logia "the study of") is the study of the interrelationships between organisms and their natural environment and how natural processes like floods, fire and predation affect these relationships. As John Muir once said, "When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe." More and more, we realize that we are part of an interconnected "web of life," and that our survival may ultimately depend on the survival of natural areas like Wildernesses. Wilderness plays a significant role in the overall health of ecosystems. Natural disturbances like floods or fires maintain natural processes, systems and patterns. Few places are left where we allow rivers to flood and trees to burn in natural cycles. Preserving wild lands may someday be seen through the eyes of historians as the most important contribution societies can make to the health of the global environment.

Wilderness improves the quality of our air because trees and other plants produce oxygen. This helps to decrease the "greenhouse effect" where heat is trapped by the Earth's atmosphere, which contains increasing amounts of carbon dioxide due to human activities.

Many communities in states such as California, Virginia and Idaho use water that starts flowing in Wilderness. Communities throughout Colorado draw water from Wilderness watersheds, assuring them of pure water in perpetuity. In fact, some Wilderness Areas were designated in order to preserve healthy watersheds for current and future generations.

By using the Wilderness Act to preserve unspoiled wildlands, we not only protect the air we breathe and the water we drink, we also protect the wildlife we cherish. Millions of birds use Wilderness Areas as nesting and wintering grounds, as well as resting places when migrating. Many animals, such as the lynx, wolf, bear, moose, and elk make their homes in Wilderness Areas. The preservation of Wilderness helps maintain the genetic material needed to provide a continuing diversity of plant and animal life. The thought that one might glimpse a wolf or a grizzly bear around the next bend humbles us before the power of nature and invigorates our spirit of adventure. Without the space and isolation that Wilderness Areas offer, these and other wildlife species could not survive. Without wildlife to pollinate, fertilize and distribute seeds and nutrients, wild lands wouldn't exist. Wilderness allows the natural cycling of birth, life, and death for thousands of animal species in their natural environments. Their presence helps us be more aware of the connection that all living things share, and that we are all a part of the circle of life.

For more information on the ecological values of preserving wildlands under the Wilderness Act, read this.

Research demonstrates increased stress to wildlife due to snowmobiles.