Protecting wilderness shows humility, respect

By Phil Knight

Phil KnightWhat good is designated wilderness? Are the Lee Metcalf or the Absaroka Beartooth “wasted lands” because people can’t just go do whatever they want there?

 

I am currently (temporarily) disabled from a fall and cannot walk unassisted. There will be no wilderness trips for me this summer. I’ve already enjoyed a lifetime’s worth of wild adventures in spectacular landscapes like the Washakie Wilderness and the Gros Ventre Wilderness and the Gallatin Range (which should be wilderness). I will be back once I heal.

 

The wilderness and its wildlife do not exist for my pleasure and my benefit. Yet I do enjoy many benefits from the existence of wilderness, as do we all. Even if I could never go there again I would value wild places just as much. It is a great solace to me to know that bears and wolves and elk and moose and mountain lions, frogs and birds and fish and grouse, can live in places where the hand of man is not obvious, where nature still rules. I know the water still flows, the trees still grow, the mountains still stand.

 

As the extinction crisis gets worse, climate change kicks in, ice caps melt and seas rise we are faced with the fact that perhaps we are not so wise. We need a more holistic approach to existence. Protecting wilderness is one of the best ways to demonstrate our humility and respect for this planet and its millions of life forms. Wilderness designation is the gold standard and sets aside lands where life can unfold under its own terms. Wilderness also gives room to help mitigate climate change.

 

I will certainly miss my wilderness time this year. But will the wilderness miss me? Not at all, and that is as it should be.

 

Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness by Phil Knight


Phil is a long time defender and explorer of Greater Yellowstone, and serves on the board of the Gallatin Yellowstone Wilderness Alliance. He is the first person to climb the highest peak in all 22 of Greater Yellowstone's mountain ranges.

 

Phil in the Missouri Breaks. By Tom Skeele

 

Photos: Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness by Phil Knight./Phil in the Missouri Breaks by Tom Skeele.

 

Editor's notes:

“Wilderness Experienced” is our shared stories and musings about recent experiences in our nation's Wildernesses. Stories focus on the virtues of Wilderness and/or challenges facing the National Wilderness Preservation System. We want to hear your story! Learn more and submit a story.

Phil's piece originally appeared in the Bozeman Chronicle on June 6, 2022.

 

Commenting guidelines:

We encourage readers to engage the authors and other commenters through the comment feature. Please be respectful and thoughtful in your response, and focus your comments on the issues/experiences presented. Please refrain from personal attacks and harassment, using rude or disruptive language, providing misinformation, or promoting violence or illegal activities. We reserve the right to reject comments. Thank you for your cooperation and support.

The Elysian Fields
 

Comments 39

Guest - heidi lynn ahlstrand on Wednesday, 27 July 2022 09:21

nature must not be destroyed anymore....lets get rid of the concrete jungle....plant more trees so natures animals can complete it. but that will never happen until Jesus comes down so instead of building on every space for real estate start building up natures real estate and protect what little is left of it.

nature must not be destroyed anymore....lets get rid of the concrete jungle....plant more trees so natures animals can complete it. but that will never happen until Jesus comes down so instead of building on every space for real estate start building up natures real estate and protect what little is left of it.
Guest - Steve Hylton on Monday, 25 July 2022 18:06

Great story Phil, I'm the same way most of my recreational activities are outside of wilderness. Even though I have bagged every peak, cross country trekked and been on every trail in Sierra Nevada's Golden Trout Wilderness I'm in no hurry to go back. I miss it dearly but I'm sure it don't miss me. Like you I have no plans to even enter a wilderness for the rest of this summer and that's fine with me. Let wilderness be wilderness without me and few less people

Great story Phil, I'm the same way most of my recreational activities are outside of wilderness. Even though I have bagged every peak, cross country trekked and been on every trail in Sierra Nevada's Golden Trout Wilderness I'm in no hurry to go back. I miss it dearly but I'm sure it don't miss me. Like you I have no plans to even enter a wilderness for the rest of this summer and that's fine with me. Let wilderness be wilderness without me and few less people
Guest - Carol on Monday, 25 July 2022 11:01

Thank you to Phil Knight - no, the wilderness does not exist for us at all. These days it exists in spite of us. I won't heal from my disability, but I was in Glacier Nation Park when it was covered with glaciers and I will always be grateful for that.

Thank you to Phil Knight - no, the wilderness does not exist for us at all. These days it exists in spite of us. I won't heal from my disability, but I was in Glacier Nation Park when it was covered with glaciers and I will always be grateful for that.
Guest - heidi lynn ahlstrand on Monday, 25 July 2022 08:48

nature is that wonderful thing that keeps the earth healthy.......now is the time!!!!

nature is that wonderful thing that keeps the earth healthy.......now is the time!!!!
Guest - Sally Rose on Sunday, 24 July 2022 13:57

Bravo! Well said, Mr. Knight. Thank you.

Bravo! Well said, Mr. Knight. Thank you.
Guest - Ann Tozier on Sunday, 24 July 2022 08:53

What a wonderful attitude, and exactly how I feel... how many of us feel, thank goodness! Thank you for writing such a heartfelt and succinct piece. May you be back in the wilderness soon!

What a wonderful attitude, and exactly how I feel... how many of us feel, thank goodness! Thank you for writing such a heartfelt and succinct piece. May you be back in the wilderness soon!
Guest - Robyn DeCiccio (website) on Sunday, 24 July 2022 06:36

Ditto!

Ditto!
Guest - Dena Shelangoski on Sunday, 24 July 2022 03:50

The more there are open areas for wildlife the better off they'll be to be able to live and hunt, if predators, and raise their own families, and less conflicts with humans and livestock by keeping livestock out of the areas. Wish humans were more thoughtful but there aren't enough of them sadly. All creatures have a right to exist. But the way things are going, everything that's not domesticated will soon be gone. Humans are a catastrophe in this lifetime.

The more there are open areas for wildlife the better off they'll be to be able to live and hunt, if predators, and raise their own families, and less conflicts with humans and livestock by keeping livestock out of the areas. Wish humans were more thoughtful but there aren't enough of them sadly. All creatures have a right to exist. But the way things are going, everything that's not domesticated will soon be gone. Humans are a catastrophe in this lifetime.
Guest - Copley Smoak on Saturday, 23 July 2022 09:32

Yes indeed, Wilderness is wonderful!

Yes indeed, Wilderness is wonderful!
Guest - Thomas H Small on Saturday, 23 July 2022 07:10

I believe Yellowstone park should be protected for all past, present & future generations of National Park visitors.
People should be allowed to pitch tents & be in the middle of nature & (away from big cities, light, noise pollution) & get away from that stuff when they have time to visit this very beautiful national park.

I believe Yellowstone park should be protected for all past, present & future generations of National Park visitors. People should be allowed to pitch tents & be in the middle of nature & (away from big cities, light, noise pollution) & get away from that stuff when they have time to visit this very beautiful national park.
Guest - Maggie Frazier on Saturday, 23 July 2022 06:34

As one of those who will likely never physically visit any of our wonderful Wilderness Areas - I agree wholeheartedly - these wild places are certainly NOT "put there for our use"! Knowing they are there and that these creatures exist and live their lives there is what matters.

As one of those who will likely never physically visit any of our wonderful Wilderness Areas - I agree wholeheartedly - these wild places are certainly NOT "put there for our use"! Knowing they are there and that these creatures exist and live their lives there is what matters.
Guest - Annemarie Weibel on Saturday, 23 July 2022 03:36

To whom it may concern,

I value wild places. Thanks to environmentalists all over the world bears, wolves, elk, moose, mountain lions, frogs, birds, fish, and many other animals are still in existence.

As the extinction crisis gets worse, climate change kicks in. We are faced with ice caps that melt and seas that are raising.

We need a different approach. Protecting wilderness is crucial. Wilderness designation is important. Wilderness helps to mitigate climate change.

Please protect wilderness!

To whom it may concern, I value wild places. Thanks to environmentalists all over the world bears, wolves, elk, moose, mountain lions, frogs, birds, fish, and many other animals are still in existence. As the extinction crisis gets worse, climate change kicks in. We are faced with ice caps that melt and seas that are raising. We need a different approach. Protecting wilderness is crucial. Wilderness designation is important. Wilderness helps to mitigate climate change. Please protect wilderness!
Guest - Paul Dyer on Friday, 22 July 2022 11:48

Humility and respect are good words to use in this case, as humanity tends to be so lacking in it, especially in our attitudes toward nature. We are all better humans when we drop the arrogance, stop pretending we know more than nature does, and show humility and respect, towards nature and towards much in life.

Humility and respect are good words to use in this case, as humanity tends to be so lacking in it, especially in our attitudes toward nature. We are all better humans when we drop the arrogance, stop pretending we know more than nature does, and show humility and respect, towards nature and towards much in life.
Guest - Angie Dixon (website) on Friday, 22 July 2022 11:32

Beautifully said. Thank you for expressing this truth.

Beautifully said. Thank you for expressing this truth.
Guest - Dal Grady on Friday, 22 July 2022 10:31

Mr Knight has captured the essence wonderfully. Thank you.

Mr Knight has captured the essence wonderfully. Thank you.
Guest - Debbie McKevitt on Friday, 22 July 2022 08:51

Phil, you are a person after my own heart. Thank you for expressing your wise, important thoughts and for your commitment to defending and supporting the preservation of Wilderness.

Phil, you are a person after my own heart. Thank you for expressing your wise, important thoughts and for your commitment to defending and supporting the preservation of Wilderness.
Guest - Kevin K Walsh on Thursday, 21 July 2022 18:43

Wildlife needs to be protected.

Wildlife needs to be protected.
Guest - Tammi Priggins on Thursday, 21 July 2022 17:42

Please save God's creatures God Bless You.

Please save God's creatures God Bless You.
Guest - Russell Novkov on Thursday, 21 July 2022 17:23

You couldn’t have said it better

You couldn’t have said it better
Guest - Kathleen Monteleone on Thursday, 21 July 2022 16:46

Hello Phil. I hope you have a speedy and strong recovery. I enjoyed reading your article and agree with it 100%. It truly saddens me that we have been bad stewards to our precious Mother Earth! I feel most alive in nature. I'm hopeful that the younger generation will continue to have peaceful protests and voice their concerns, and change laws about the rights of all living beings. May you have many more adventures ahead!

Hello Phil. I hope you have a speedy and strong recovery. I enjoyed reading your article and agree with it 100%. It truly saddens me that we have been bad stewards to our precious Mother Earth! I feel most alive in nature. I'm hopeful that the younger generation will continue to have peaceful protests and voice their concerns, and change laws about the rights of all living beings. May you have many more adventures ahead!
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Monday, 15 August 2022

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