Changing Ideas About Wilderness

Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve


Our Changing Idea of Wilderness

Hello and welcome to Glacier Bay National Park’s Ranger Minutes. My name is Marylou Blakeslee and on behalf of the National Park Service, I’d like to welcome you to the wilderness of Glacier Bay.

Our concept of Wilderness has been an expanding idea since people first began to control the environment around them. The darkness of night and the inability to see in a thick forest came to symbolize challenges to security and safety. The wild was uncontrolled and hence dangerous.

While Eastern philosophies sought inspiration and enlightenment in the mountains and in the wilderness, Western civilization stood in contrast to the wild, to the dangerous and sought to control it. In 1755, The Dictionary of English Language, defined wilderness as “a tract of solitude and savageness.”

Our ideas of natural beauty were those of manicured lawns and rigorously tended gardens. Even today that idea persists around our homes. Houses with lush green lawns and flower gardens are more valuable than those without. However, today we also value the ever decreasing wild lands. Homes with lawns and gardens AND wild lands are even more valuable in the real estate market. Our appreciation of the ephemeral qualities of nature are present even in office environments. Those with the highest ranking positions have their desks near windows. The highest of these has the best view shed.

In National Parks, that best view shed, is provided to everyone who visits. Wilderness Parks are places, wild and uncontrolled, that are protected, free from the heartbreak of development. Here you can experience animals living their lives regardless of human ideas or desires. Here are myriad changes of the natural order which dictate the life, death, prosperity or demise of the creatures living here. Here, you and your children and their children can remember our deep connection to the natural world. We can stand in awe. We can stand in beauty. We can step outside of the mechanisms of our daily lives and observe our wild brethren making choices independent of the human race, as they lead their daily lives.

Welcome to the world of our ancestors. Welcome to the wilderness protected for our future generations. Experience the wilderness of your National Parks.

Park Ranger M. Blakeslee


Our concept of Wilderness has been an expanding idea since people first began to control the environment around them. Join ranger Marylou to discover our new appreciation for wild places.


2 minutes, 39 seconds


NPS / M. Blakeslee

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