The article quotes Roderick Nash in his 1978 text book "Wilderness Management."
"A designated, managed wilderness is, in a very important sense, a contradiction in terms. It could even be said that any area that is proclaimed wilderness and managed as such is not wilderness by these very acts! The problem is that the traditional meaning of wilderness is an environment that man does not influence, a place he does not control."My 1971 Photo on West Buttress of Denali published in "The Smithsonian Magazine" article about clean up efforts on the mountain.
The 1964 Wilderness Act was a significant event in American culture and has been celebrated by wilderness advocates now for 50 years. However the act itself included a number of well documented political and economic compromises that were necessary for contemporary congressional representatives to seriously consider passing it. These compromises by themselves severely limited what the concept of wilderness could have been. By 1964 one hundred short years of grandfathered livestock grazing, mining, guided hunting, floating, back county airports and other uses were built into the act. And recently we have seen accepted helicopter spraying for weeds, wolf control and other federal and state management actions that I believe most wilderness advocates would not believe to have been possible some years ago.
Even the fixed boundaries where some popular access roads started to cause overcrowding resulting in the perceived need for wilderness permit requirements, and law enforcement by managers. If the wilderness boundaries had been made flexible and popular access roads closed, requiring wilderness users to walk more distance these management tools would not be as necessary. Even the act of maintaining trails for easy access for horses and hikers eliminates some of the naturalness of a wilderness, not to mention the maintenance of existing wilderness airfields and buildings.
Two examples of wild areas that have become overcrowded because of easy access that could be moved back include the Middle Fork of the Salmon River in Idaho and the West Buttress Route on Denali. At one of the Wilderness Conferences it was revealed that the existing road into Dagger Falls was originally supposed to be only temporary in the 1931 designated primitive area that then existed. Punched in with the notion that mankind could engineer a way to "help" salmon get up Dagger Falls more easily than they had for milenia, the primitive area rules required that this road would not be permanent. However, as we now know thousands of trucks, vans,and busses carry boats, gears and guided customers of private companies and self organized public groups to the well constructed put in point just below Dagger Falls. If this road did not exist, floating the Middle Fork would require at least on more day and would also require a portage of Dagger Falls that most guides and paying customers never like to do. On Denali, the most popular West Buttress route requires permits because the Park Service allows bush pilots to ferry people into a close approach on the Kahiltna Glacier. Just eliminating the airplane access and helicopter rescues would require a much larger effort and commitment to climb this highest wild peak in North America. In 1975 I was involved in a 60 day "Clean Climbing" Expedition that attempted to demonstrate this concept.
Personally, I have been an active participant in Wilderness issues and activities during this 50 year period, in Idaho, Oregon and Alaska and other western areas. In my youth I hiked and hunted in the primitive areas that later became the Selway Bitterroot and Frank Church Wilderness Areas in Idaho. In the late 1960's at the University of Oregon Outdoor Program we initiated actions help to Save the French Pete Wilderness. I helped organize a several year effort to manage trash and access Mt. McKinley (Denali) in Alaska and on the Lower Salmon River in Idaho. We organized "Wilderness Use Ethics" and "Wilderness and Individual Freedom" conferences and also published "Free Country Times" and "Cooperative Wilderness Adventures" for several years at the University of Oregon. I have also hiked, backpacked, photographed and produced many multimedia programs and web site projects that have wilderness and natural environment themes over the past 35 years with Katy Flanagan and Mountain Visions.