Monday, August 29, 2016

The Great Trail Debate: Why Wilderness Needs More Trails - Full Article

Should we ban the construction of any more trails into the wilderness? Robert Moor, author of the new book, 'On Trails,' says we should build more.

By: Robert Moor
Aug 13, 2016

Back in 1930, Bob Marshall—legendary outdoorsman, bestselling author, and grandpappy of the environmental movement—set out to define what the wilderness is. He settled on two basic preconditions: “first, that it requires anyone who exists in it to depend exclusively on his own effort for survival; and second, that it preserves as nearly as possible the primitive environment.” This means that all roads, mechanical transportation, and human habitation would be forbidden. But according to Marshall, trails—the most ‘primitive’ of all our myriad inventions—would be “entirely permissible.”

This belief was later reflected in the first version of the National Wilderness Preservation Act, introduced to the Senate in 1957, which defines wilderness as a place where “man” is “a wanderer who visits but does not remain and whose travels leave only trails.” That’s the thing about trails: if enough people visit a piece of land, they are going to make them. It’s what we as a species—we as animals—instinctively do. The act of creating and following trails is one of the oldest and most profound ways that we make sense of this chaotic planet we all live on.

The question, then, is not whether we want to make trails, but how—with our feet, or with our hands? In other words, do we want to create them unconsciously and with little foresight? Or do we want to build them deliberately, with the aim of making them as sustainable as possible?...

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