World Wilderness Inventory Overview

In 1987, The Sierra Club with the collaboration of the International Wilderness Foundation, the Fourth World Wilderness Congress, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (ICUN), the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP), and others conducted and published a global inventory of the world's wilderness areas with surprising results.

With the human population passing the 5 billion mark and industrialization spreading to once remote areas, how much of the planet's land is still relatively undeveloped and wild--dominated by natural forces only?

A wilderness inventory conducted of the 4th World Wilderness Congress suggests that about one-third of the earth is still wilderness. But about 42% of this wilderness is in the high arctic or antarctic, and 20% is in warm deserts. The rest constitutes areas with greater biological activity: 20% is in the temperate regions, 12% in the tropics, 4% in mixed mountain regions, and 2% spread elsewhere.

This wilderness extends along several bands. One reaches across the northern latitudes of Alaska, Canada, and the Soviet Union; another stretches from the Soviet Far East down through Tibet, Afghanistan, and Saudi Arabia to Africa; another reaches east-west across the Sahel of Africa; and another runs north-south across the center of Australia. A concentration of wilderness is found in the Amazon of South America, with a north-south band running along the Andes.

The continents with the most wilderness, after Antarctica and Greenland (which are nearly entirely wilderness) are Asia, Africa, and North America. South America has only one-half as much wilderness as North America, and Australia has only about one half as much as South America. Antarctica aside, most of the continents (except Europe) still are between one-quarter and one-third wilderness.

In the words of former Sierra Club President Michael McCloskey and Heather Spalding, the remaining wild land is the patrimony of the world ? of all living things, and of all generations to come. With this inventory, those interested can start to track what is happening and to mark trends as subsequent inventories reveal changes. Humanity can then decide whether it is losing too much wild land and where. (3)

With permissions from (1) The National Geographic Society, (2) The Wild Foundation including map on page 5, and (3) Ambio. The map below shows the general distribution of wilderness areas in the inventory. The circles are proportional to the size of the wilderness areas and are centered on the center coordinates of each unit.

In This Issue:

Cover Page

Varieties of Wilderness Experience

Spring Comes to the North Country

The Last Wild Places

World Wilderness Inventory Overview

Zulu Wilderness - Shadow and Soul

Small Is Beautiful

The Murie Center News

That Glorious Wisconsin Wilderness

Financial Pages