The Importance of Wilderness

How do you quantify the importance of a wilderness? By its size? Its mountains or rivers? Maybe instead a wilderness is as important as its impact on individuals. Some places, like the Grand Canyon, are visited millions of times a year and leave life-long impacts on visitors.  Some, like the ice and waters of the Arctic are rarely ever visited, and yet inspire the imaginations of people the world over.

I felt inspired as I grew up in the Santa Monica Mountains. As a kid, I always loved staring out at the oaks and cliffs as I drove down Mulholland Highway. I would fall asleep comfortably to the sounds of howling coyotes a few blocks away. I celebrated birthdays at Paramount Ranch, hiked in Malibu Creek State Park, and attended my favorite field trips at Headwaters Corner. These mountains are not just my home, they’re my history and my refuge.
But is this enough? Valuing these mountains only by their impact on me makes me feel as if I’ve cheated them. They’ve been here long before I’ve seen them and they’ll be here long after. The plants and animals that live and interact here; the spaces that allow solitude; the hidden and wondrous features of this wilderness. They all hold a kind of value that can’t be defined in terms of enjoyment or satisfaction. Nor can they simply be defined in terms of usefulness or practicality.  These mountains are a timeless kind of treasure chest. One that’s bigger than me or you or even all of us. Their importance is too ubiquitous to be quantified, and I am proud to help protect them.