By: Dr. Natalie Dawson
Associate director of the Wilderness Institute
at the University of Montana
for Mountain West News
Feb. 21, 2013
The public is invited to attend a series of free lectures on Tuesday evenings that began on Feb. 5 and continue through March 26. These lectures are sponsored by the Wilderness Institute at the University of Montana.
The 2013 Wilderness Lecture Series, Wilderness on the Edge, began Tuesday, Feb. 5,, at the University of Montana in Missoula, with the all lectures scheduled at 7:10 p.m. in Room 122 of the Gallagher Business Building.
This year’s theme, “Wilderness on the Edge: The Emerging Roles of Wildlands in Changing Landscapes” attempts to challenge our conventional ideas of wilderness as we move forward in wilderness management, education, stewardship, research, and philosophy. The series will explore the many ways in which we can define “wilderness” by bringing together speakers who will discuss the different ways in which we value wilderness.
We will hear from social scientists, focusing on wilderness areas on the edge of large communities in Africa. We will discuss private lands protection and how shifting previously “working” landscapes into “wilderness” areas can be done through large-scale conservation. We will discuss the philosophical underpinnings of our ideas of wilderness, and the ways in which tangible examples, such as fire management, shift our thinking about wilderness. Finally, we will hear stories about a new generation of wilderness areas, in some uncommon areas, and we be forced to think critically about the true “value of wilderness” based on ecology and biodiversity, two natural processes that we try to protect in wilderness areas.
With 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act occurring in 2014, this year’s lecture series is meant to facilitate the discussion of wilderness in preparation for the “Year of Wilderness.” As we move forward in public lands protection over the coming decades, it will be important to continually evolve our conceptual frameworks for wilderness and protected landscapes as social and ecological values in these systems continue to change.
We will have a philosophical discussion about wilderness in a rapidly changing world on Feb. 26, when Albert Borgmann, UM Regents’ professor of philosophy presents, "The Force of Wilderness within the ubiquity of cyberspace.” This talk will look at the ways in which 21st century technology has penetrated even the vast wilderness areas of our country.
On March 5, David Campbell, from the Bitterroot National Forest West Fork Ranger District will present, “Wilderness and Fire: Lessons learned from 40 years of success in the Selway Bitterroot Wilderness.” His talk will discuss fire management in wilderness areas and how it not only shapes landscapes within wilderness, but how wilderness fire management affects the communities that are located on the edge of those wilderness areas.
Sam Mace, inland Northwest Director of Save Our Wild Salmon will present “Wild Salmon, Wild Lands” on March 12. She will talk about the ways in which we define wild landscapes based on aquatic resources by focusing on the connections between intact ecosystems and healthy salmon populations in the Snake River basin.
On March 19, author and journalist Emma Marris will visit our lecture series to discuss research from her latest book, “The Rambunctious Garden.” Her talk, “The New Wild” will focus on the surprising ways in which urban landscapes can provide a “wilderness experience” for many people, and how these places may become the most valuable “wilderness areas” in the coming decades.
The 2013 Wilderness Issues Lecture Series will close on March 26 with a talk by Reed Noss, research professor at the University of Central Florida and president of the Florida Institute for Conservation Science. With many years of experience in pondering large scale conservation around the globe, Dr. Noss will talk about wilderness as a way to protect the ecological and social values of “Wilderness, Wildness, and Biodiversity."
Dr. Natalie Dawson is a wildlife biologist and associate director of the Wilderness Institute at the University of Montana. She also directs the Wilderness and Civilization program at the University of Montana, a minor degree program that offers students a field and classroom-based learning experience focusing on wilderness issues, ethics, literature, and ecology.