Stand Up and Be Counted

Your Wilderness - October 2012

At the core of our democracy is the very simple principle of civic participation. By becoming involved in efforts to protect your favorite places as wilderness, you are engaging in the public arena. You might meet with city councilors or county commissioners to ask for their support. You may write letters to your representatives in Congress to urge that they sponsor legislation. Or perhaps you send comments to let the U.S. Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management know your views on the care of your public lands.

When you do these things, you are actively taking part in the process by which decisions are made that affect lands you and I and every American own. You are also ensuring that the vision the Founding Fathers had for this great nation is realized: a government of the people, by the people, for the people.

Although it seems much divides Americans today, wilderness protection rises above because it is truly nonpartisan and seeks balanced compromises. What unites us is the idea of leaving a legacy of our natural heritage for our children so they can have the same experiences we have had. If our communities have clean water to drink, healthy air to breathe, recreational opportunities such as hunting and fishing to enjoy, and a high quality-of-life factor that attracts employers and employees alike, so much the better. It's our common ground.

As the autumn leaves start to turn, you now have another opportunity to participate. You get to exercise your right to vote.

Our right to cast a ballot comes with certain responsibilities. We need to study the issues, learn about the candidates and their positions, attend debates or forums to hear their thoughts, get to know them, and respectfully ask thoughtful questions of those who would like to serve as city councilors, county commissioners, state representatives and senators, and members of Congress. It takes time, which not all people the world over have, and maybe that's why some don't exercise their right. So we shouldn't take it for granted, especially if we care about wilderness.

You can make a difference just as those who helped shape a government nearly 50 years ago had the wisdom and foresight to enact the Wilderness Act of 1964. For as Stewart Udall wrote when he was secretary of the Interior, “There is no place more democratic than wilderness.” We all derive benefit from America's natural heritage. Let's pass some of it on. 

Explore our interactive timeline featuring highlights from America's land protection history: