Wildlands Network published For the Wild in 2017 to celebrate 25 years of reconnecting nature in North America. Every couple of weeks, we’ll be posting a new excerpt from this inspiring collection of prose, poetry, and photographs as a special feature on our website. Please join the Rewilding Society or our Wildlands Stewards giving circle to receive a bound copy of For the Wild. Visit our Donate page to learn more.
Retrospective: The Wildlands Vision, 1992
by Dave Foreman, John Davis, David Johns, Reed Noss, and Michael Soulé
OUR VISION IS SIMPLE: we live for the day when Grizzly Bears in Chihuahua have an unbroken connection to Grizzlies in Alaska; when Gray Wolf populations are continuous from Mexico to Labrador; when vast unbroken forests and flowing plains again thrive and support pre-Columbian populations of plants and animals; when humans dwell with respect, harmony, and affection for the land; when we come to live no longer as strangers and aliens on this continent.
Our vision is continental: from Panama and the Caribbean to Alaska and Greenland, from the Arctic to the continental shelves, we seek to bring together conservationists, ecologists, indigenous peoples, and others to protect and restore evolutionary processes and biodiversity. We seek to assist other conservation organizations, and to develop cooperative relationships with activists and grassroots groups everywhere who are committed to these goals.
We are called to our task by the failure of existing parks and wildlife refuges to adequately protect life in North America. While these areas preserve landscapes of spectacular scenery and areas ideally suited to non-mechanized forms of recreation, they are too small, too isolated, and represent too few types of ecosystems to perpetuate the biodiversity of the continent. Despite the establishment of parks and other reserves from Canada to Central America, true wilderness and wilderness-dependent species are in precipitous decline.
Large predators like the Grizzly Bear, Gray Wolf, Wolverine, Puma, Jaguar, Green Sea Turtle, and American Crocodile have been exterminated from most of their pre-Columbian range and are imperiled in much of their remaining habitat. Populations of many songbirds are crashing, and waterfowl and shorebird populations are reaching new lows.
Native forests have been extensively cleared, leaving only scattered remnants of most forest types. Even extensive forest types, such as Boreal Forest, face imminent destruction in many areas. Tall and Short Grass Prairies, once the habitat of the most spectacular large mammal concentrations on the continent, have been almost entirely destroyed or domesticated.
We are committed to a proposal based on the requirements of all native species to flourish within the ebb and flow of ecological processes, rather than within the constraints of what industrial civilization is content to leave alone. Present reserves exist as discrete islands of nature in a sea of human-modified landscapes. Building upon those natural areas, we seek to develop a system of large wild core reserves where biodiversity and ecological processes dominate.
Core reserves would be linked by biological corridors to allow for the natural dispersal of wide-ranging species, for genetic exchange between populations, and for migration of organisms in response to climate change. Buffers would be established around core reserves and corridors to protect their integrity from disruptive human activities.