The Wilderness is designated areas of land that are protected by the United States Government. Not just any federal land is qualified to be considered Wilderness. In fact, the land must have scientific, educational and historical value. Currently, our preservation efforts contain 110 million acres located across 44 states (including the U.S. Territory Puerto Rico). But why does our government go through all this effort to preserve this land? There are several reasons as to why preserving the Wilderness and protecting it from over-development are important.
One of the most important aspects is ecological. As more and more towns and cities are developed, the more places for wildlife creatures to go is limited. Having a preserved portion of land helps biological diversity and gives a home to many species of animals that would otherwise have no place to live. Having Wilderness also provides us with oxygen while filtering the carbon dioxide out of the air. By doing this, this helps damper climate change.
Another important aspect of Wilderness that is often forgotten is the recreational benefits. Many preserves have areas to hike and camp giving the opportunity for many to appreciate and be one with nature. This tourism can be a source of income for many towns that are not fully urbanized and do not have a city and often wouldn’t be visited.
In Virginia, one of the most popular Wilderness areas is the Shenandoah Wilderness in Shenandoah National Park. There are over 175 miles of trails and an abundance of woodland creatures such as deer, bears, bobcats, turkeys and over 200 species of birds. The most popular Wilderness area is Boundary Waters Canoe Area in Minnesota. On the Canadian border, there are over 2,200 camping sites that are accessible by canoe. Wildlife such as wolves, otters, moose, beavers, frogs, and bats can be found.