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 - Larkin Sinnott (website) on Thursday, 21 July 2022 14:26

Every single bit of matter in this universe and on our globe is connected. Everything and all of us were created when the Big Bang occurred. We cannot survive by harming ourselves & our home....

Every single bit of matter in this universe and on our globe is connected. Everything and all of us were created when the Big Bang occurred. We cannot survive by harming ourselves & our home....
Guest - Scott Ploger on Thursday, 21 July 2022 12:13

Phil, here’s some encouragement to a fellow old fart. Six years ago I had a total lumbar fusion that left me with a partially paralyzed left leg, a limp, sore back, and numb feet. After a year of healing and therapy, I resumed backpacking, albeit with much lighter packs and shorter trips than before my surgery. Crossing creeks on a single log has become quite a thrill. I managed a dozen trips before my knees gave out. The last 9 months have been devoted to totally replacing them. I’m day-hiking now and hoping to try an overnight soon. Don’t give up!!

Phil, here’s some encouragement to a fellow old fart. Six years ago I had a total lumbar fusion that left me with a partially paralyzed left leg, a limp, sore back, and numb feet. After a year of healing and therapy, I resumed backpacking, albeit with much lighter packs and shorter trips than before my surgery. Crossing creeks on a single log has become quite a thrill. I managed a dozen trips before my knees gave out. The last 9 months have been devoted to totally replacing them. I’m day-hiking now and hoping to try an overnight soon. Don’t give up!!
Guest - Cecily Colloby on Thursday, 21 July 2022 12:11

Get well soon and go back to enjoying the wilderness. As you say, it is NOT there for us but for the wildlife whose home it is and we should protect it for them and not allow others to destroy it. What is it with the human race that it wants to build on every square inch of the planet and ruin it??? Insanely enough, we are already exploring the idea of living on other planets in order, no doubt, to have somewhere to go when we have finished destroying this one!!!

Get well soon and go back to enjoying the wilderness. As you say, it is NOT there for us but for the wildlife whose home it is and we should protect it for them and not allow others to destroy it. What is it with the human race that it wants to build on every square inch of the planet and ruin it??? Insanely enough, we are already exploring the idea of living on other planets in order, no doubt, to have somewhere to go when we have finished destroying this one!!!
Guest - Bettie Paradis on Thursday, 21 July 2022 11:51

wildlife and nature are important to us all, humans and animals

wildlife and nature are important to us all, humans and animals
Guest - Kenneth Lapointe (website) on Thursday, 21 July 2022 11:17

Wow, couldn't agree more with Phil. He's probably had more wilderness adventures than myself (a Canadian in the province of Ontario), but I've had my good share of being in nature, and also helping the natural world, environmental and wildlife and habitats, anywhere in the world for the last 24 years thanks to the internet (first ten years offline). And never made a penny at it. All that mattered to me is that I helped.

Wow, couldn't agree more with Phil. He's probably had more wilderness adventures than myself (a Canadian in the province of Ontario), but I've had my good share of being in nature, and also helping the natural world, environmental and wildlife and habitats, anywhere in the world for the last 24 years thanks to the internet (first ten years offline). And never made a penny at it. All that mattered to me is that I helped.
Guest - John Andes on Thursday, 21 July 2022 10:35

At age 78 I enjoy the benefits from the existence of wilderness as much as i did 40 years ago. 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. Americans need a more holistic approach to existence. Ensuring that wilderness remains available for others is one of the best ways to demonstrate our humility and respect for this planet and its millions of life forms, humility and respect that seems so often lacking. 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.

Why do our federal agencies - Forest Service, the BLM, the NPS, the FWS even consider allowing such destructive projects as proposed forf Utah?

Why?

At age 78 I enjoy the benefits from the existence of wilderness as much as i did 40 years ago. 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. Americans need a more holistic approach to existence. Ensuring that wilderness remains available for others is one of the best ways to demonstrate our humility and respect for this planet and its millions of life forms, humility and respect that seems so often lacking. 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. Why do our federal agencies - Forest Service, the BLM, the NPS, the FWS even consider allowing such destructive projects as proposed forf Utah? Why?
Guest - Diane Kastel on Thursday, 21 July 2022 10:30

Mr. Phil Knight's essay was, superbly, written, and, heart-felt. It is an accurate, and, sincere, description of what wilderness provides for us, but, that it does not exist for us. I found his article to be inspirational, and, especially, poignant because it reiterated my, own, belief that even if I am not there to witness it, I am happy and gratified to know that it exists with all its wildlife, greenery, geographical, features and, scenic, value! His, ending, phrase was meaningful: Nature does not need us!

Mr. Phil Knight's essay was, superbly, written, and, heart-felt. It is an accurate, and, sincere, description of what wilderness provides for us, but, that it does not exist for us. I found his article to be inspirational, and, especially, poignant because it reiterated my, own, belief that even if I am not there to witness it, I am happy and gratified to know that it exists with all its wildlife, greenery, geographical, features and, scenic, value! His, ending, phrase was meaningful: Nature does not need us!
Guest - Kevin Oldham on Thursday, 21 July 2022 10:26

Thanks Phil. I live near the Adirondacks and although it's not strictly wild I am happy to help preserve it. I feel your pain regarding your injury. I broke a toe in April, suffered complications and am only beginning to walk lightly now. Hopefully you and I will be ready for fall hiking. Carry on!

Thanks Phil. I live near the Adirondacks and although it's not strictly wild I am happy to help preserve it. I feel your pain regarding your injury. I broke a toe in April, suffered complications and am only beginning to walk lightly now. Hopefully you and I will be ready for fall hiking. Carry on!
Guest - Jerry on Thursday, 21 July 2022 09:58

Knowing that the wilderness is there and will be there for future generations is so comforting, even though I wouldn't visit in the near future. To think that these lands belong to all of us and not a few, ultra-rich people who bought them and closed them off to everyone else. These are your lands, people, and yours to enjoy and protect for all of us. It's our national and natural heritage being preserved here!

Knowing that the wilderness is there and will be there for future generations is so comforting, even though I wouldn't visit in the near future. To think that these lands belong to all of us and not a few, ultra-rich people who bought them and closed them off to everyone else. These are your lands, people, and yours to enjoy and protect for all of us. It's our national and natural heritage being preserved here!
Guest - Mary Lou Ramirez on Thursday, 21 July 2022 09:58

Beautifully said, and totally agree. You are lucky and have such wonderful memories, plus pictures too. We need it and it needs for us to love and care for it.

Beautifully said, and totally agree. You are lucky and have such wonderful memories, plus pictures too. We need it and it needs for us to love and care for it.
Guest - Walter John Bankovitch on Thursday, 21 July 2022 09:52

Hi, Phil, may you heal soon and completely!

Hi, Phil, may you heal soon and completely!
Guest - Sharon A Camhi on Thursday, 21 July 2022 09:40

I need a "win" both on a global and personal level and respectful stewardship of nature would go a long way.

I need a "win" both on a global and personal level and respectful stewardship of nature would go a long way.
Guest - Paz Paulsen-Sacks on Thursday, 21 July 2022 09:36

Please protect our natural areas

Please protect our natural areas
Guest - Jennifer Brooks (website) on Thursday, 21 July 2022 09:28


I could not agree more. Nature does NOT need us, we need it. I am increasingly upset with the degradation of the environment and the loss of biodiversity at the hands of humans. If we do not come to our senses immediately, we will have ourselves to blame for our own loss of natural resources.
The above article is beautifully expressed. Thank you.

I could not agree more. Nature does NOT need us, we need it. I am increasingly upset with the degradation of the environment and the loss of biodiversity at the hands of humans. If we do not come to our senses immediately, we will have ourselves to blame for our own loss of natural resources. The above article is beautifully expressed. Thank you.
Guest - Michael Lee on Thursday, 21 July 2022 09:24

Beautifully put, and mirrors my own thoughts and views on and love for the wilderness. Hope that you're able to enjoy it, yourself, next year.

Beautifully put, and mirrors my own thoughts and views on and love for the wilderness. Hope that you're able to enjoy it, yourself, next year.
Guest - Mark Forsyth on Thursday, 21 July 2022 09:13

Hey Phil,Greetings from the Saint Lawrence River Thousand Islands region.I know how you feel missing a prime season in your favorite wild place.I hope you mend quickly.Would Autumn time be too much to hope for? You and I both know how special that season is.I will keep my fingers crossed for your fast recovery.Best Wishes.

Hey Phil,Greetings from the Saint Lawrence River Thousand Islands region.I know how you feel missing a prime season in your favorite wild place.I hope you mend quickly.Would Autumn time be too much to hope for? You and I both know how special that season is.I will keep my fingers crossed for your fast recovery.Best Wishes.
Guest - Elizabeth Roberts on Thursday, 21 July 2022 09:12

I could not agree more. Nature does NOT need us, we need it. I am increasingly upset with the degradation of the environment and the loss of biodiversity at the hands of humans. If we do not come to our senses immediately, we will have ourselves to blame for our own loss of natural resources.
The above article is beautifully expressed. Thank you.

I could not agree more. Nature does NOT need us, we need it. I am increasingly upset with the degradation of the environment and the loss of biodiversity at the hands of humans. If we do not come to our senses immediately, we will have ourselves to blame for our own loss of natural resources. The above article is beautifully expressed. Thank you.
Guest - Karen Malley on Thursday, 21 July 2022 09:00

Thank you Phil. You have said it beautifully. I hope many of us share this mindset.

Thank you Phil. You have said it beautifully. I hope many of us share this mindset.
Guest - Dan Sherwood on Thursday, 21 July 2022 08:46

Hi Phil,

Nice to see your name and pic. in this email!
Hope you mend up quickly
Dan Sherwood (friend of David Lee and all Wild Areas)

Hi Phil, Nice to see your name and pic. in this email! Hope you mend up quickly Dan Sherwood (friend of David Lee and all Wild Areas)
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Monday, 15 August 2022

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