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The Working Wilderness

The Working Wilderness

(p.75) 9 The Working Wilderness
Courtney White
University of Chicago Press

This chapter argues that the conservation movement needs to reinvent itself from the ground up and that the traditional paradigms of protection, pristineness, and wilderness are increasingly misaligned with modern concerns and innovative on-the-ground practices. The author points toward examples of current practices in the progressive ranching movement to illustrate that the ecological processes that make land healthy for wildlife are the same ones that make it productive for livestock. A key concept in the chapter, applied both to wilderness areas and ranches, is land health, which Aldo Leopold described as the capacity of the land to renew itself. The author uses the concept of land health to evaluate conservation practices and strategies, noting that this criteria—lands that are functioning properly at ecological levels first and foremost—is crucial to conservation and land management. Moreover, the chapter suggests, the traditional segregation of land into “use” and “nonuse” valuations, while automatically assuming the latter to be preferable ecologically, is no longer justifiable.

Keywords:   conservation, land health, ranching, wilderness, Quivira Coalition, holistic range management, progressive ranching movement, Aldo Leopold

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