From Terry Tempest Williams, these are the words that open a new documentary on the Wilderness Act, Forever Wild:
If there is a greatness to the American spirit, a spirit aligned with freedom and faith, surely its origins are to be found in the expanse of landscapes that have nurtured us…. Raw, wild beauty is a deeply held American value. It is its own declaration of independence. Equality is experienced through humility. Liberty is expressed through the simple act of wandering.
Amen to that. And amen to the doc itself, which shows the extraordinary-yet-undramatic heroism of a few individuals who brought vast landscapes of beauty beyond measure under the protection of law. It’s inspiring to see how much a handful of people can accomplish, and it’s also a reminder of how powerful beauty itself can be.
Seemingly beauty can’t speak for itself…or can it?
John Krist, of the Ventura County Star, on the fortieth anniversary of the Wilderness Act, put it quite well a few years ago, calling it “the most striking example of legislative eloquence in the past century,” and quoting its famous first sentence:
A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.
The doc will serve as the lead-in for Ken Burns’ epochal series on the national parks, running this week. More on that soon, but this one is well worth a look in its own right.
The point is, you don’t have to be famous to preserve wilderness. (Though you do have to work, and plenty hard..) Down here in Ventura county, friends Alasdair Coyne and Dave White launched an org, Keep the Sespe Wild, that went on to preserve a great deal of the Sespe…and blessedly so. Here’s another of the wild places saved by ordinary Americans…the Maroon Wilderness. Check it out on Sunday, before the Burns’ series.