Healthy, productive land and water resources, wildlife habitat, parks and open space, culturally and historically significant landscapes, and available and accessible recreation lands are fundamental to the American way of life and our future prosperity," notes a recent report by the private, bipartisan Outdoor Resources Review Group.
"At stake now and for future generations is the health of our people, our economy, our communities, and the lands and waters on which we depend, in short, our quality of life."
This wide-ranging review, sponsored by the Outdoor Resources Review Group, looked at how Americans engage with and value the nation's land and water resources and its outdoor recreation assets.
A summary of the report calls for a comprehensive overhaul of programs and policies to safeguard these resources for future generations and to meet the needs of a growing population.
"The American environmental movement has focused so much on preserving nature that it has neglected to do enough to preserve a constituency for nature. It's important not only to save forests, but also to promote camping, hiking, bouldering and whitewater rafting so that people care about saving those forests," wrote Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times.
The protection of wilderness lands presents a unique paradox. Wilderness lands, which are defined as "untrammeled by man" will only be preserved if people use them. In the eyes of many, if the land isn't utilized, it holds no value and thus, there is no need to protect it.
"Will baby boomers constitute the last generation of Americans to share an intimate, familial attachment to the land and water?" Richard Louv asked in his book Last Child in the Woods.
This growing detachment of youth from the natural world is part of a national trend. This detachment is evident in the Adirondacks as well. If our youth do not use and enjoy the local woods and waters, they will see no need to protect them. What will happen when the next generation takes over?