Chair’s Corner

September – October 2018 – by Dick Beck, Chair

Is there wilderness left in the world?

Perhaps.   My wife Marlene and I just returned from 30 days traveling west.   Our trip was blatant sightseeing – around Lake Louise (Banff National Park, Canada);  Vancouver & Victoria, British Columbia;  Orcas & San Juan Islands northwest of Seattle;  North Cascade, Yellowstone and Theodore Roosevelt National Parks in our lower 48 states;  with the Grand Coulee Dam and other places along the way.

We were near some “wilderness,” but didn’t hike in very far.

As a society and as the Sierra Club, we hope to allow a bit of wilderness to exist even today.   Yes, there are serious politicians and others opposed to this, and they have real power.   Our attempts to allow wilderness in national parks makes life difficult for tourists.   Relatively speaking, there are only a few roads in Grand Teton, North Cascade, and some other parks.   During the summer, there are traffic jams of SUVs, trucks, cars and RVs.    Parking spaces are at a premium in tourist destinations.   Overnight lodging is expensive too!    We used our tent near Yellowstone, spent $53.50/night for a tent site, and were happy for the opportunity.

Near Lake Louise, we spoke with a park officer and a park employee, who said some old trails are now closed.    Legally, people are still allowed to walk anywhere, but some trailheads are blocked off, to discourage tourists.   Generally, the strategy works, and keeps humans from wandering everywhere.

Personally, I’m happy that life is difficult for us tourists in areas that were once wilderness.   I hope we don’t build many more roads or trails, or allow ATVs or snowmobiles to rip up the land.   For large animals, there’s very little wilderness left anywhere in the world.   We may learn that it’s important for bison, elk, bear, mountain lions, wolves, giraffes, gorillas, lions, tigers, and in water, whales, sharks and fish to have space too.

I feel guilty for our sightseeing.   We drove a hybrid Prius about 7,300 miles (11,750 kilometers), and used about 150 gallons (568 liters) of gasoline.   I was surprised to learn that we got better mileage than many of the motorcycles we saw, but that’s still a lot of fossil fuel burned.

But . . . some vistas were breathtaking, and especially when we got onto a few short trails, my heart was uplifted.   Our Sierra Club founder John Muir was right about how just a touch of wilderness can restore souls.

May you enjoy a touch of wilderness every now and then, and may you explore, enjoy and protect the earth.   And may we grant other animals places to live on this earth too.