Mike Matz: Looking Ahead, Our Work Together

The beginning of a new year offers the chance to take a prospective look at the months ahead. As 2012 begins, it is important to note a couple of advantages enjoyed by those who want to protect wilderness for future generations.

If we view the persuadable public as someone in a grocery store looking at a box of cake mix, what particularly appeals to the shopper is the picture on the front of the box, which looks so scrumptious it may be irresistible. We have something similar. We have gorgeous photographs of real places that can be saved. But we have something even better. Because on the back of that box of cake mix are facts and figures that may dissuade the shopper from plucking it off the shelf and placing it in their cart: calories per serving, calories from fat, a list of ingredients that may include some less than healthy ones.

We, however, have facts and figures squarely in line with the scrumptious picture on the front of the box. Economic studies show that designating wilderness creates jobs and improves local economiesWildlife research also indicates that everything from charismatic megafauna to basic building blocks of any natural system benefits from wild, untrammeled habitat. Water supplies are kept clean and air quality is enhanced by wilderness protection. Our selling points for wilderness are the same, front or back of the box; they are equally persuasive, and they typically convince the public to pick our product and take it to the checkout line.

Because our checkout line is Congress, the second clear advantage we hold is that our place-based campaigns to safeguard wilderness are locally driven and supported. Congress may be the final arbiter of what gets included in the National Wilderness Preservation System, but the proposals they consider are generated by people who earn their livelihoods from the places to be protected or have their quality of life improved by them. They are residents whose towns rely on water supplies cascading down from them, whose sons and daughters may hunt or fish in them.

Even without touting the progress that's been made so far with any number of proposals in the 112th Congress, we judge the prospects for 2012 excellent, because wilderness is so appealing, people see it from their backyards, they recognize and appreciate its benefits, and they want it protected. The future for wilderness preservation looks as bright as the sun glinting off that snow-capped mountain to be handed down to our children just as it is.