Something will have gone out of us as a people if we ever let the remaining wilderness be destroyed; if we permit the last virgin forests to be turned into comic books and plastic cigarette cases; if we drive the few remaining members of the wild species into zoos or to extinction; if we pollute the last clear air and dirty the last clean streams and push our paved roads through the last of the silence, so that never again will Americans be free in their own country from the noise, the exhausts, the stinks of human and automotive waste.
The conservation of wild spaces is a mirror. It is a reflection of our collective conscience. An indicator of what sort of value we are willing to place on simple, open, undisturbed land. Is ski resort expansion more important to us than unregulated, difficult-to-access, unbridled acreage? Or must every canyon and every peak be lift-served? Must every road be paved, and every National Park democratized so entirely that they become mere bus tours for the uninterested and indolent?
Are we not a wild species? Have we not survived and thrived for millions of years without the modern amenity of effortless expedition? Certainly inside most of us still linger the spirits of our ancestors and the primal desire for wide, clean, uninhibited space. Even the idea of wilderness, simply knowing that somewhere in the distance it exists, that it remains, can move and inspire and comfort us. Wilderness is a tether to our heritage. Wilderness is a reminder that we stand on the shoulders of pioneers, farmers, prophets and activists, conservationists and poets. Their legacy is now our responsibility.