Vision and Purpose of The Wildlands Project
The Wildlands Project official site
March 25, 2002
As the new millennium begins, humanity approaches a watershed for
wildlife and wilderness. Human activity is undoing creation; the
remaining degraded and fragmented lands will not sustain their
biological diversity and evolutionary processes. We need a bold plan to
halt and reverse the destruction. Healing the land means reconnecting
the parts so that vital flows can be renewed.
The mission of the Wildlands Project is to protect and restore the
natural heritage of North America through the establishment of a
connected system of wildlands. 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.
Recovery on this scale will take time—100 years or more in some
places. This vision for continental renewal rests on the spirit of
social responsibility that has built so many great institutions in the
past and acknowledges that the health of our society and its
institutions depends on wildness. The land has given much to us; now it
is time to give something back—to allow nature to thrive once more and
to restore the links that will sustain both wilderness and the
foundations of human communities.
We are ambitious: we live
for the day when grizzlies in Chihuahua have an unbroken connection to
grizzlies in Alaska; when wolf populations are restored from Mexico to
the Yukon; when vast forests and flowing prairies again thrive and
support their full assemblage of native plants and animals; when humans
dwell with respect, harmony, and affection for the land; when we come to
live no longer as conquerors but as respectful citizens in the land
We are called to our task by the inability of existing parks,
wilderness areas, and wildlife refuges to adequately protect life in
North America in the face of increasing human numbers and technological
change. While these areas preserve spectacular scenery and provide
outstanding recreational opportunities, they are too small, too
isolated, and represent too few types of ecosystems to perpetuate the
continent’s biological wealth. Despite the establishment of parks and
reserves from Canada to Central America, true wilderness and native,
wildland-dependent species are in precipitous decline.
predators—including the grizzly bear, gray wolf, wolverine,
jaguar, and American crocodile—have been exterminated from large
parts of their pre-Columbian range and are imperiled in much of
their remaining habitat.
disappearance of these top predators and other keystone species
hastens the unraveling of ecosystems and impoverishes the lives of
have been over-cut, cleared, and fragmented, leaving only scattered
remnants of once vast ecosystems. Even extensive habitats, such as
the boreal forest, face imminent destruction.
and short-grass prairie, historically the most extensive community
type in North America, and once home to an extraordinary
concentration of large mammals, has been almost entirely destroyed
coastal areas, and mountains are imperiled by sprawling subdivisions
and second-home development.
vehicles penetrate the few remaining roadless areas on illegal roads
rising tide of invasive exotic species—ecological opportunists of
the global economy—threatens a new wave of extinction and the
eventual homogenization of ecosystems everywhere.
change adds to the vulnerability of wildlands that remain.
trends, acting globally, are among the notable causes of the current and
sixth major extinction event to occur since the first large organisms
appeared on Earth a half-billion years ago. The Wildlands Project, as a
remedy, is working to create regional and continental networks of
conservation areas that will protect wild habitat, biodiversity,
ecological integrity, ecological services, and evolutionary processes.
Meaning of Wilderness
We reject the notion that wilderness is merely a remote destination
suitable only for backpacking. We see wilderness as a wild home for
unfettered life. Wilderness means:
roadless areas—vast, self-regulated landscapes—free of
mechanized human use and the sounds and constructions of modern
self-reproducing populations of all native species, including large
patterns of diversity at the genetic, species, ecosystem, and
wilderness is absolutely essential. It is not the solution to every
ecological problem, but without wilderness the planet will sink further
into biological poverty, and humanity’s communion with its roots will
be lost forever.
We seek partnerships with grassroots and national conservation
organizations, government agencies, indigenous peoples, private
landowners, and with naturalists, scientists, and conservationists
across the continent to create
networks of wildlands from Central America to Alaska and from Nova
Scotia to California. We seek to heal nature’s wounds by designing and
creating wildlands networks and by restoring critical species and
ecological processes to the land.
wildlands networks will:
the repatriation of top predators where they have been extirpated
from present and future wilderness areas and national parks;
large areas of wild habitat where plants and animals are
unrestrained, where native species thrive, and where nature, not
technology, determines their evolutionary fate;
extensive linkages between large natural areas to ensure the
continuation of migrations and other movements vital for the
survival of healthy populations;
the recovery of natural processes such as fire.
will implement these networks by:
the designation of new conservation areas and improving the
management of existing public lands;
both for the removal of public subsidies that maintain abusive
land-use practices and for positive incentives that encourage
responsible land management;
land owners and land trusts in the voluntary protection of critical
parcels of private land;
with transportation agencies to help remove or mitigate barriers to
with planners at all levels to create a balance between the needs of
nature and human society;
the restoration of disturbed lands and waters until that time when
nature has recovered and can manage itself.
the people of North America to care for their home—for its own
sake and for the sake of those yet to come.
about The Wildlands Project