What makes America great: Our wild lands

By JIM DIPESO, REP’s Policy Director

AN HISTORICAL DOCUMENT: Letter to the editor of Seattle Post-Intelligencer, published September 19, 2004


Congressman Richard Pombo and other politicians who complain about protecting wilderness have lost sight of what makes our nation great. As a certain California governor might say, wilderness opponents should stop being girlie-men.

Thanks to wilderness, we are a strong and creative nation. Wilderness was the school of hard knocks that built our character, shaped our culture, and taught us to overcome difficulty. We admire American heroes such as Daniel Boone, Lewis and Clark, and Theodore Roosevelt because they faced nature on its own terms.

Encounters with the wild helped us win our freedom, build a democracy, and encourage enterprise. An important goal of the Wilderness Act, which passed 40 years ago with huge bipartisan majorities, is to protect the wild lands that made us what we are today.

Visiting a wilderness means leaving behind today’s technological toys and soft comforts. It allows us to emulate the example of our forebears. As President Kennedy once said, we choose to do challenging things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.

We are healthier in body and spirit when we stretch ourselves. And America is the better for it.