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Some Wild Words We Love

Language shapes how we think and act. We make sense of the world through the stories we tell ourselves. The key words that anchor those stories can be powerful catalysts for good or ill, pointing toward a future when Earth exudes wholeness, integrity, and health, or, a future where Earth suffers continued ecological unraveling and climate chaos. For two decades, Northeast Wilderness Trust has been speaking about its mission—conserving and rewilding land—using a lexicon of love. Its aim is to avoid words that objectify and commodify the natural world. Rather, the Wilderness Trust strives for language that embodies reciprocity, relationship, and kinship—reflecting a worldview that recognizes our species as but one member in the great community of life.

Rewilding: helping Nature heal.

“Rewilding means giving space back to wildlife and returning wildlife back to the land . . . Rewilding means restoring and protecting specific places—on land and in the ocean—where Nature is free . . . Such wild lands and waters are critical to
sustain ecological vitality by supporting intact food webs and natural processes.”
—Global Charter for Rewilding the Earth (2020)

Untrammeled: not deprived of freedom of action or expression.

Howard Zahniser, who drafted the federal Wilderness Act of 1964, consciously excluded words like “pristine” or “untouched” from the Act. He chose “untrammeled” as the lynchpin in the Act’s definition clause because he knew that wilderness can grow as well as shrink.

Wilderness: an area where the land and its community of life are untrammeled by people; self-willed land where natural processes direct the ebb and flow of life.

The etymological roots of the word “wilderness” meant “will of the land,” a place apart from areas domesticated for human needs. In our time and region, every place has been affected by people, but wilderness recovery, or rewilding, occurs when we foster the conditions in time and space for natural processes to operate freely.

The defining characteristic of wilderness is freedom for the land to evolve in its own way. The result is beauty, diversity, and opportunity for future evolutionary flourishing.

Forever-Wild Conservation: legal mechanisms assuring permanent protection for wilderness or equivalent protected areas, whether in public or private ownership.

More than a century ago the elegant phrase “forever wild” was included in Article 14 of New York’s state constitution, which protects the Adirondack Park’s publicly owned Forest Preserve as wildlife habitat that cannot be sold, developed, or logged.

Today we use “forever wild” because of its poetic quality and also to evoke Northeast Wilderness Trust’s commitment to build organizational capacity adequate to the test of perpetuity. (Because forever is a long time!)

Nature for Nature’s Sake: land conservation approach that emphasizes the intrinsic value of wild places and beings.

Safeguarding wilderness, the “arena of evolution,” reminds us that we are but one strand in a great tapestry of life. Northeast Wilderness Trust’s foremost value when protecting wilderness is that all beings have inherent value regardless of their actual or perceived utility to humanity.

We also celebrate the benefits that wilderness offers to people—as source of beauty, solitude, and spiritual renewal; producer of clean air and water; and climate change fighter via natural carbon storage, among many other attributes.

Bobcat by David Middleton | West Mountain Forever-Wild Easement by Harry White | Small white pine at Moriah Wilderness Preserve by Stephen Matter | Fen at Alder Stream Wilderness Preserve by Jerry Monkman | Winter brook at Burnt Mountain Forever-Wild Easement by Zack Porter