The Idea of Wilderness

How has wilderness emerged over the decades to become appreciated and in some cases preserved?

Changing concepts of American wilderness have been chronicled over time by an array of authors ranging from philosopher Henry David Thoreau and conservationist John Muir to historian Bernard DeVoto and Howard Zahniser, primary author of the wilderness bill. Artists and photographers also have played important roles in increasing awareness about the value of wilderness.

View the timeline at right to track the course of wilderness in America and learn valuable insights from notable people in American history.



"The question is always open. How we treat our world and each other grows from our vision of how we have come to where we are."

—Elliott West
The Contested Plains Indians, Goldseekers, and the Rush to Colorado, 1998