Sunday, June 17, 2007

The price of protection

Here is a letter of mine that AMC Outdoors included in its current issue:

“In his article “What is Wilderness,” Ed Winchester noted the positive economic impact wilderness areas can have on surrounding “gateway” towns. The boon has two sides, however. One needs only to look at the sprawling, consumptive mess of North Conway to see that outdoor recreational tourism is accompanied by plenty of negatives. The high property values Winchester seems to laud do more than displace locals—they encourage the fragmentation and development of land adjacent to reserves.

William Cronon questioned in The Trouble with Wilderness whether the existence of wilderness makes it for us easier to justify degrading unprotected land. This may well be the case in North Conway, and perhaps for other lands blighted by sprawl and heavy industry.”

If you’ve read my own piece Wilderness Expands in New England, which I posted on Gulliver’s Nest a couple of months ago (and appeared in The North Star Monthly), you’ll know I favor designating more wilderness areas around the country. Unfortunately, AMC Outdoors has a habit of publishing opinion pieces as feature stories and conveniently leaving out the counterpoints—which need to be addressed. The argument for wilderness is stronger for acknowledging its risks and challenges than ignoring them.

Picture: Galehead Mountain on a foggy evening.

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