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What future changes might affect wilderness management?

Technological creep has already been affecting wilderness; sometimes for good and sometimes not. Technology has helped people spend time in wilderness while impacting the land very little. Modern camp stoves have made campfires a luxury most of the time. Lightweight camping equipment has made foot and horse travel much easier, making the need for big stoves and heavy tents a thing of the past, and decreasing impacts on the land. People can easily pack out what they pack in. On the other hand, some of today's technology has the potential to take away the sense of adventure and uncertainty that are part of the wilderness experience. Bob Marshall and Arthur Carhart certainly didn't envision satellite communications, cell phones, and global positioning systems (GPS) as part of the solitude and adventure of wilderness travel. Still, these technologies are becoming widely used by wilderness visitors. Their use may increase search and rescue calls by giving visitors a false sense of security, thereby causing some to take unnecessary risks. Additionally, these devices have the potential to negatively impact the wilderness experiences of other visitors who go to wilderness to escape from the mechanized world, essentially to be un-connected.

Probably the biggest challenge we all face is how to keep the "wildness" in wilderness and still make it available for the public to visit and enjoy. The demands on the wilderness resource will intensify over time as resources like clean water become more precious. There will be more pressures to modify weather over wilderness and to divert water in wilderness. There will be requests for uses of wilderness that cannot even be envisioned now, but they will come. When managers decide what to approve and what to deny, they must keep foremost the protection of the wilderness resource itself. The wilderness resource is fragile and can be lost through the erosion of seemingly inconsequential decisions.



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