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Threats to Wilderness From Lack of Public Awareness

A young African American boy puts his head under a waterfall in the Yosemite Wilderness.
Programs that provide first-time wilderness experiences to inner city children leave lasting impressions.
It was once said that if something is not understood, it is not valued; if it is not valued, it is not loved; if it is not loved, it is not protected, and if it is not protected, it is lost. Public surveys have found that people who know about wilderness value it tremendously[1], yet almost half of Americans simply do not understand what wilderness is, how it shaped our nation, and how they benefit from it. This leaves many, especially today's youth, disconnected from and less likely to support and value wilderness.

Such a prospect may seem dim, yet the publication of Richard Louv's book, Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder[2], has sparked a movement to reconnect children with nature through unstructured play outdoors. The Children and Nature Network, Outdoor Nation, WildLink, and many other organizations are helping today's young people develop lasting relationships with the natural world to ensure that today's wilderness areas are protected into the future.


  1. National Survey on Recreation and the Environment (NSRE). (2000-2002). The Interagency National Survey Consortium, Coordinated by the USDA Forest Service, Recreation, Wilderness, and Demographics Trends Research Group, Athens, GA and the Human Dimensions Research Laboratory, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN. Retrieved on July 14, 2009.
  2. Louv, R. (2005). Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder. Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Book.

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