Who needs wilderness? Civilization needs wilderness. The idea of wilderness preservation is one of the fruits of civilization, like Bach's music, Tolstoy's novels, scientific medicine, novocaine, space travel, free love, the double martini, the secret ballot, the home and private property, the public park and public property, freedom of travel, the Bill of Rights, peppermint toothpaste, beaches for nude bathing, the right to own and bear arms, the right to not own and bear arms, and a thousand other good things one could name, some of them trivial, most of them essential, all of them vital to that great, bubbling, disorderly, anarchic, unmanageable diversity of opinion, expression, and ways of living which free men and women love, which is their breath of life, and which the authoritarians of church and state and war and sometimes even art despise and always have despised. And feared.
~Edward Abbey, Freedom and Wilderness, Wilderness and Freedom
To those devoid of imagination, a blank place on a map is a useless waste; to others, the most valuable part.
~Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac and Sketches Here and There
There exists in contemporary American society a school of thought that teaches the pernicious idea that we the people hold title to far too much green and brown land. Too much open space where flora and fauna and freedom and frivolity and fun and fantasy can flourish. Whether in the form of regional parks, state parks, national parks, national forests, national recreation areas, national monuments, state beaches, national shorelines, conservation areas, or designated wilderness, the thinking is that all of this available land, locked up as it is by an overbearing government, is simply being wasted. "Wasted" in this context meaning that the land isn't being fully exploited for financial gain by private industry - loggers, miners, farmers, ranchers, the oil industry, the energy industry, dam builders, home builders, gold course designers, solar power generators, and the like. This idea, which is incessantly peddled by the monied interests, reinforced by their political mouth-pieces, and generally accepted as Gospel truth by an alarming portion of the population, is hard-coded into the American psyche, an artifact of 19th century expansionism and the arrogant notion of "Manifest Destiny." It is particularly prevalent in the West where, fortunately, we still have large tracts of publicly-owned land to argue over.
But if this never-ending pandemic has shown us anything, it is the utter absurdity of this well-worn and tired idea. Not only do we not have too much public, open space to cavort in, we have far too little of this most-valuable commodity for a stressed population that needs an unconfined place for both therapeutic and not-so-therapeutic activities. Hiking, biking, running, camping, bird-watching, exploring, finding oneself, losing oneself, hunting, fishing, drinking beer, smoking weed, skinny-dipping, fucking. All of this, good and bad, legal and illegal, is part of the palliative of the public-lands prescription. That probably sounds a bit hyperbolic and overly-opinionated. But that's only because it's a bit hyperbolic and overly-opinionated. But it also happens to be absolutely and infallibly true.