A More Inclusive Wilderness Story

 Person sitting in the desert

The dominant public lands narrative has long celebrated American greatness by ignoring genocide, oppression, and land dispossession. The Wilderness Institute is working to tell a more honest story of the wilderness movement's evolution--to visitors, land managers, students and the public--one that encourages growth through equity and inclusion.

It is important that the wilderness story becomes honest and relevant to diverse affinity groups, and accurately contextualizes conservation’s colonialist and discriminatory past without further victimizing systemically-excluded groups. Through a new project, the Institute's Wilderness Connect program, is re-evaluating the events and people that have traditionally characterized the history of the wilderness philosophy. The Wilderness Connect program includes a comprehensive online library of information about all wilderness areas in the country along with learning tools for those wanting to visit wilderness areas. From the idolization of characters like John Muir to the discriminatory meanings now conveyed by words like "untrammeled" and "man," Wilderness Connect is re-envisioning the wilderness story we tell to transform what has long been a European-White-male-centric tale to one that recognizes the roles and contributions of BIPOC, women, members of the LGBTQ+ community, outdoor enthusiasts with disabilities and other systemically-excluded groups.

Authoring and editing are being guided by an advisory committee including people with diverse identities under leadership provided by the Wilderness Institute's Wildlands Communications Director, Lisa Ronald. Graduate student writers are also being included.

Look for changes to the Wilderness Connect website starting in 2022. For questions about this project, contact Wildlands Communications Director Lisa Ronald.