European Wilderness SocietyWilderness

Is Wilderness a threat to the traditional nature conservation concept?

I was recently asked if Wilderness is a threat to traditional nature conservation concepts? Besides the conclusions from that discussion, the subject itself stimulated in my mind several ideas afterwards.

The first question that popped into my mind was: What defines traditional nature conservation concepts?

Often it is a species-oriented approach e.g., number of species per square meter or actively maintaining the current composition and structure of biodiversity. Typically (but not always) this is the objective of Natura 2000 management plans.  In such a scenario obviously Wilderness does not support this concept completely.

If nature conservation implies human management and restoration measures, as we often see in many areas, than again Wilderness is not a perfect match. Nature evolves and manages itself much better than we humans can. In fact, nature is the best rewilding force there is, as can be witnessed in Chernobyl, Königsbrücker Heide, Mount St Helen and even on Hawaii.

However, if we are talking about the more the complex approach, where the flora and fauna are important elements of the spontaneous natural processes and dynamism, than Wilderness has an important role! We often also call Wilderness self-willed land!

So my conclusion and the answer to the question at the beginning of this post is: NO! Wilderness is not a threat to the traditional nature conservation measures if we stop managing Wilderness, but rather observe and take a stewardship role in the proccess! It is definitely an often ignored natural approach in the European of the nature conservation world.

Wilderness is not about benefits to biodiversity, it is about stewardship of natural habitats. In fact biodiversity often declines since nature manages biodiversity without specific goals or objectives so typical to the human nature conservation approach. Wilderness is about protecting human mankind from destroying the basis of human life and not about protecting habitats… Wilderness will survive humans, but humans will not survive without Wilderness. Max A. E. Rossberg, Chairman of the European Wilderness Society

4 thoughts on “Is Wilderness a threat to the traditional nature conservation concept?

  • Important is always in this kind discussion to keep mind: what is our objective!!! To protect either specific species or spontaneous natural processes! Both are important and do not exclude each other. Otherwise this discussion can lost a focus.

  • an interesting discourse. however, I do not see it as a ‘binary’ choice: one or the other. much, of course, comes down to definitions: always, in Melville’s phrase, a ‘loose fish’. and since the terms are partly value judgements, we would need to unpick them to get at the assumptions behind the judgements.
    so, your article a useful think piece to stimulate discussion. i would think the EWS could be a useful vehicle to host that discourse, but it would need to be clear on whether it was an impartial host, or a protagonist. I suspect the latter, certainly in people’s perceptions.
    to return to the question: ‘wilderness’, to me, is a goal, an aim. nature conservation is a tool, a method. different categories. both valuable.
    best wishes.

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