Earth Day: why wilderness?

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Americans came together 49 years ago to celebrate the first Earth Day. We committed to making our planet a more liveable place. We’ve cleaned up our water. We’ve reduced air pollution. We can drink and breathe easier now.

We have built trails and saved wild rivers and wild places for ourselves, our kids and our grandkids. We have more room to roam free. The public has deserts, mountains, valleys, streams, rivers, forests and meadows where we can all go to find our own wild place.

People’s passions are usually rooted to the land and water where they live. We think and act locally to make our corner of the earth a better place to be. But, the Earth Day vision, as the name suggests, is global.

A passion to save wild places is in the hearts of many people. This drive has some common traits. But, the answer to the question “why wilderness” is also a very personal one.

I hike and paddle into wild places today so I can feel like I did when I was 10 years old and my dad took me down the Allagash River in northern Maine. There was so much new to me in those wild woods and waters; mystery, fun, excitement. I grew up more in those 10 days than I had in my first 10 years.

For many people, saving wild country is about leaving places for their kids and grandkids to explore and grow up wild in. As Rebecca Sanchez puts it: “I appreciate how the mountains bring my kids to life. Here they are free to roam, explore nature, and help one another reach new heights.”

But wilderness is not only for our kids and future; it’s for all of us, now. We need to be able to find quiet places in our own wild backyards. We need places open for hiking, horseback riding, berry picking, fishing and hunting. We need places beyond the sounds and distractions motors bring. We need places to hear elk bugle, deer snort and mountain goats tap their hooves on loose rocks. We need to hear the owl ask “Who, who?”

Henry David Thoreau hiked all over New England because, “being in the mountains is the closest thing we have experienced to Heaven on Earth.”

With Earth Day in our sights, many people will take action because they care about the wild flowers and native forests. Or they want to save wild places because bears, moose, wolverines and other critters need their own wild place too. Whether it’s our kids or mountain goat kids; we all need wild places where we can thrive.

Ask yourself: What’s in your heart? Where’s your wild place? And, what will you do to save it?

For many, the answers bring us together to save the wild Scotchmans. If you come up with that answer too, then become a Friend. You’ll join others that find their wild place in the Scotchman Peaks too.

— Phil Hough, FSPW

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