When considering what remains of the earth’s few still-intact ecosystems, which function at the landscape level, we must recognize that tipping points exist for each of these places: they are in danger of passing from whole to imperiled. Wild places are imperiled when their wholeness is eroded, frayed, and fractured by human impact — as a result of too little attention being paid to the things that hold them together, which transcend artificial human boundaries. We must pay attention to the inherent natural rhythms of the organic cycle of the bio-system, including the instinctual and reactive habits of wildlife.
In the past thirty years, wildlife scientists and managers worked together to reintroduce and restore the grizzly bear and wolf populations. Both are currently thriving, but the reality shadows the species’ futures: in many corners of the world, the hundred-year outlook for the survival of these megafauna (and others) is in doubt.
Yet miraculously, in the geographical heart of North America, surrounded by major population centers in all directions, wildness persists beyond our full comprehension. It is a mesmerizing and enthralling part of the planet that is both a global destination and an emblem of high quality of life for people. This place holds a quality of untamed nature that binds us to the living plants and animals we find here. The future of each foreshadows the fate of the other. Here, one can come to understand a sense of shared sentience that transcends our individuality and allows us to experience the ancient wholeness of what it means to be a human in a vast landscape — understanding our relationship to and within an ecosystem. This is a rare experience in our disconnected and primarily urban lives.
How we choose to live, and our patterns of commerce, development, and recreation, will determine whether we can successfully pioneer a new model.