By Myles Bridgewater-Jackman, AnaCapri Mauro, and Kara Scherer
Wilderness is a complex concept that holds many different meanings for different people. The views of wilderness range from spiritual perceptions of wild to views that this “untouched” land is being wasted. One’s perceptions of wilderness is largely based upon the community in which they grew up and the societal and cultural values held in this region. Ideas of wilderness are extremely individualized even within similar societal structures. Wilderness is often more of a catalyst for various emotional states surrounding the ideas of nature, human modification, and their interaction, thus creating a relationship between the ecological aspect of wilderness and human interactions. Many people wish to leave this natural, wild, and unspoiled land as pristine as possible. These people, purists, do not want any human alterations to the land. There are others, however, that favor keeping the land pristine but are receptive to the building of small structures like swing bridges and paths. Both groups dislike commercialization of land.
Perceptions of wilderness and the desire to conserve it become extremely important views to take into consideration when creating conservation policy. Policies are often very purist in nature, meaning they create land areas that restrict human modification of the land. They also prohibit accessing resources provided by the land which may anger the people that live in these areas. This has led to the introduction of Community Based Natural Resource Management organizations that delegate some authority to the people it would most directly affect. Because wilderness is often viewed as an escape from civilization, the people that live in wilderness areas are not as frequently taken into consideration as the eco-tourists travelling to these areas. Giving power to the inhabitants allows for policy to reflect their changing views on conservation and wilderness in a fluid and malleable manner. Many different conservation organizations exist, but not all employ this unique structure.
The Federation of Western Outdoor Clubs (FWOC) is a compilation of outdoor clubs situated in the western part of the United States. FWOC aims to unite these clubs in a common conservation goal and to promote efficiency within these conservation endeavors. FWOC formed out of a desire to “enjoy nature rather than exploit it” in 1932, and continues to follow that doctrine today as each of the member organizations works to carry out these ideas of conservation, policy building, and wilderness area establishing. FWOC has been largely successful in its endeavors because of the large outdoor club following that it has gained over the years. The central object behind FWOC’s actions is wilderness and the protection thereof. They, as an organization, subscribe to the classic view of environmentalism that aligns with the purist view that wilderness is a space that needs to remain untouched by humans so that the naturally occurring flora and fauna are able to thrive unharmed. As previously mentioned, not everyone participating in conservation efforts holds this belief. Because FWOC is so specific in its doctrine, they may be alienating a large demographic of young conservationists. In this research project we will explore demographic trends related to the FWOC and the conservation of wilderness attitudes of these demographics.