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Wilderness: we're losing ground.

As the year 2000 approaches, we're hearing more predictions of growth: more people, more houses, more cars, more jobs, more leisure time. And no region of the nation is growing as fast as Western America.

But one vital element of our national life style will absolutely not grow--our land, especially our wildlands. And if there is one law that applies to wilderness, it is this: it is finite. We can't grow more wilderness; once developed, it cannot be restored. Some pristine lands are "protected." But even some wilderness areas in our national parks are vulnerable. What remains, let alone what can still be saved, is with every passing year less than any previous generation inherited.

This month, Sunset's special report (see page 94) takes a close look at the issues. In 1984, the critical question facing all citizens and Congress is: what is the proper balance? How far can we develop open spaces before economic gain is offset by loss of natural value; before we weaken the spirit of discovery and spiritual renewal that wilderness inspires?

In seeking the answers this election year, it's timely to remember that the Wilderness Act of 1964, which established the National Wilderness Preservation System, was a bipartisan effort. We hope a proposed new Outdoor Recreation Resources Review Commission (ORRRC II) will also receive broad support.

Most of America's remaining wilderness is in her 13 Western states.

Such proximity has nurtured a close relationship between Westerners and wildlands. (In the 37 states east of the Rocky Mountains, where some 80 percent of Americans live, wilderness generally survives only in isolated pockets.) Those of us living in the West, therefore should have a better understanding and a higher level of responsibility in determining the future of wilderness lands. Indeed, the West symbolizes America's dynamic frontier spirit. And I have a strong feeling there is a synergism between a creative, productive society and the inspiring wilderness environment. When our cultural and material values are considered on balance, perhaps the ideas of Audubon and Muir have contributed as much to real happiness as those of Edison and Einstein.

Sunset strives for fair analysis in reporting the difficult balance and compromise that must be achieved between wilderness and civilization.

We recognize that nature can't always win. We also know that many citizen taxpayers, who eant to protect some portion of wilderness, frequently aren't as well organized or funded as are the commercial interests (sometimes with the aid of government agencies) in conveying their feelings to the press and Congress. The total effort of all responsible conservation groups can't match the budgets, legal assistance, lobbying, and communications ability of corporate interests. This is not to imply that the latter is bad; it is just a fact.

We try to present all significant sides on environmental matters. Our research covers many sources and experts checkers with different points of view. Our role is not to crusade with emotional or biased opinions, but to provide the facts and how-to-do-it information so our readers can judge for themselves. When we do our job, more than 5,000,000 sunset readers will be better prepared to make their own decisions. Our hunch is that they'll decide to get even more involved with protecting the wilderness.
COPYRIGHT 1984 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1984 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:letter
Author:Lane, L.W., Jr.
Article Type:Letter to the Editor
Date:May 1, 1984
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