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Wilderness Around the World

The WILD Foundation assists nations and organizations around the world to establish wilderness areas and similar natural preserves, adapted to the needs and circumstances of their own societies and cultures. Sponsors the quadrennial WILD congresses. Links to the proceedings of the first ten World Wilderness congresses.
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The Essential Books to Read About Wilderness

The History of Wilderness Designation

  • The Enduring Wilderness: Protecting Our Natural Heritage Through the Wilderness Act (2004), foreword by Theodore Roosevelt IV.  Wide used in classrooms and by federal wilderness agencies; considered the definitive book on the history and politics of wilderness preservation: link to ordering page you have
  • Our Wilderness: America’s Common Ground (2009), foreword by Robert Redford.  Full color photographs and great quotations about wilderness, an introduction for all ages which you may be in the book sale areas of agency visitor centers and ranger offices: link to ordering page you have
  • Ed Zahniser, ed., Where Wilderness Preservation Began: Adirondack Writings of Howard Zahniser (Utica: North Country Press, 1992). Ed is the youngest son of the father of the Wilderness Act and recites the love affair his father had with the wilderness of the Adirondack Park in New York State, where his family had a modest summer cabin.
  • Mark Harvey, A Symbol of Wilderness: Echo Park and the American Conservation Movement (Fulcrum Publishing, 1994). History of the campaign to stop a dam threatening a unit of the National Park System, which established the political power of the wilderness movement in Congress and laid the ground work for the campaign for the Wilderness Act.
  • Fulcrum publishes many other books about nature and wilderness—history, policy, hiking guides, and novels—for adults and children.

Weyerhaeuser Environment Books, an imprint of the University of Washington Press, publishes a long list of excellent books on wilderness history.

  • Paul S. Sutter, Driven Wild: How the Fight Against Automobiles Launched the Modern Wilderness Movement. A fine collective biography of many of the founders of the wilderness advocacy movement.
  • Mark Harvey, Wilderness Forever: Howard Zahniser and the Path to the Wilderness Act (2005). The definitive biography of the father of the Wilderness Act.
  • Mark Harvey, The Wilderness Writings of Howard C. Zahniser (forthcoming in 2014).
  • James Morton Turner, The Promise of Wilderness: American Environmental Politics since 1964 (2012). History of the implementation of the Wilderness Act since 1964. Jay derived this book from his invaluable Princeton doctoral dissertation, for which he traveled the country to interview key participants. Will stand as the definitive work; highly recommended.

Other essential history books:

  • Dennis M. Roth, The Wilderness Movement and the National Forests (College Station, TX: Intaglio Press, undated). Dennis was the staff historian of the U.S. Forest Service; he did not let that color his well-researched story of the early work for preservation of national forest wilderness areas.

The Intellectual History of Wilderness

  • Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac and Sketches Here and There (New York: Oxford University Press, 1949). The classic foundational book by the man responsible for protection of our first wilderness area in 1924. The last chapter, about wilderness, is extraordinary. Full color photographs and great quotations about wilderness, an introduction.
  • Roderick Nash, Wilderness and the American Mind (Yale University Press, 5th edition, 2004). Rod delves deeply into the intellectual history of the idea that wild nature is valued, not feared. A classic; never out of print.
  • Stephen J. Pyne, How the Canyon Become Grand: A Short History (New York: Penguin Group, 1998). In 158 pages, an tour de force of intellectual history tracing how went from being thought an ugly barrier by the Spanish conquistadores, to being perhaps the most widely known, world-famous scenic wonder.

Biographies of the Leading Founders of Wilderness Preservation

  • James M. Glover, A Wilderness Original: The Life of Bob Marshall (Seattle: The Mountaineers, 1986). Bob was the leading force in the founding of The Wilderness Society and led the division of the U.S. Forest Service that dramatically expanded national forest wilderness areas from 1929 to 1930. He was described by a colleague as “the most effective weapon of preservation in existence” and his extraordinary, tragically short life is captured in this biography.
  • Steven C. Schulte, Wayne Aspinall and the Shaping of the American West (Boulder: University Press of Colorado, 2002) traces the life of the member of Congress most responsible for the shape of the Wilderness Act. As chairman of the House committee, he held life and death power over this and other western water and mining resources.
  • Donald W. Carson, Mo: The Life and Times of Morris K. Udall (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2004). Mo was the essential champion of wilderness preservation the House of Representatives, notably in Alaska, in the years after enactment of the Wilderness Act. His power with members of both parties on both sides of the Capitol came from his Lincolnesque humor, always self deprecating.
  • Thomas G. Smith, John Saylor and the Preservation of America’s Wilderness (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2006). The lead champion for the bill from start to finish, we referred to him as “St. John” behind his back. An indomitable force of nature who never met a dam he liked or a national park or wilderness area he was not determined to preserve by law. Smith is also the author of a history of the original 1970 Earth Day.
  • Daniel Nelson, A Passion for the Land: John Seiberling and the Environmental Movement (Kent, OH: The Kent State University Press, 2009). Seiberling was the essential expert in Congress on every detail of every proposed wilderness area, park, and other conservation unit in Alaska, and a champion for preservation of new national parks. We called him “St. John,” too.

The Values of Wilderness for People

  • Gerald G. May, The Wisdom of Wilderness: Experiencing the Healing Power of Nature (New York: Harper Collins, 2006).  A psychiatrist and later a leader of contemplative theology, May chronicles the power of wilderness to help him deal with his impending death from cancer. Deep and powerful.
  • H. Ken Cordell, John C. Bergstrom and J. M. Bowker, The Multiple Values of Wilderness (State College, PA: Venture Publishing, 2005). Papers by experts prepared for a symposium addressing wilderness values—natural, ecological, intrinsic, social, and economic, led by three researchers from the U.S. Forest Service Research Station in Athens, Georgia. They also conduct periodic, peer-reviewed public opinion surveys of

Wilderness Preservation Around the World

  • Cyril F. Kormos, A Handbook on International Wilderness Law and Policy (Fulcrum Publishing, 2008). Papers presented at a symposium of experts about wilderness preservation efforts in their countries. Cyril is with The WILD Foundation which encourages more protection of wilderness around the world.

Just Plain Great Writing About Wilderness

  • There are many examples that I will excerpt in an anthology, Wild Thoughts: Selections of Great Writing About Nature, Wilderness, and the People Who Love Them, which will be published in spring, 2014. Here is a favorite:
  • David Simons, “These Are the Shining Mountains,” Sierra Club Bulletin, Bulletin 44, no. 7 (October 1959), 1-3. An evocative description of the wilderness in the central Oregon Cascade Mountains by a young explorer who also prepared the first detailed proposal for what became the North Cascades Wilderness in Washington State.