America is the land of opportunity. As individuals we value the right to choose. We have the freedom to better ourselves by taking on challenges.
These wild lands have been here for millennia. Long before the birth of the United States, these lands were known to many. They shaped the culture and spirit of Native American tribes who first called them home.
The American “frontier” was the edge of settled land, beyond which lies wilderness. Crossing the frontier attracted a melting pot of people, all looking for the promise of opportunity and freedom beyond the frontier. The call of the West reached multitudes, from Lewis and Clark to Horace Greely. Its allure appealed to all kinds of people for all kinds of reasons. Always, our wild lands defined our spirit and unified us as Americans. In saving wild places we are saving the heart of what it means to be an American.
Wild places have defined our country. Landscape painter Thomas Cole in his 1832 essay “American Scenery” notes:“American Scenery…has features…and glorious ones, unknown to Europe. The most distinctive, and perhaps, the most impressive characteristics of American scenery is its Wildness.”
Wild lands are a strong part of our shared heritage. In Europe, wild lands were preserved for the nobility, the landed gentry. In America, wild lands have drawn people from all backgrounds. Beyond the villages, farms and fields were forests open to hunters, trappers, explorers and settlers. Wild lands are a mirror by which we define our very selves.
Davy Crockett, Daniel Boone, Jeremiah Johnson: As frontiersmen they showed a spirit which still inspires generations of Americans. No less iconic were the men, women and children who trekked across the continent as pioneers to start new lives. While the “frontier” closed a century ago, what it embodies is still an important measure of who we are. We have a patriotic duty to preserve those wild places. We need a frontier we can cross to find our own sense of who we are. If we lose wild places, we lose part of how we define our American spirit and character.
On July 4th, we celebrate the independence needed to found our nation. Let’s remember, it was the wildness of this continent which attracted rugged individuals. And it is wild places that mold the independent spirit which makes American a land of opportunity and freedom.