Letters from the past

To: The Outdoor Recreation Resources Review Commission, 1960

From: Wallace Stegner

"So will the wilderness as a genetic reserve, a scientific yardstick by which we may measure the world in its natural balance against the world in its man-made imbalance."

quality | wild species | sense of sublime | testing ground | some if not all | Conclusion

Edgar Payne's late 19th century painting of central California.

"What I want to speak for is not so much the wilderness uses, valuable as those are, but the wilderness idea, which is a resource in itself."


The character ... and history as a people


"Something will have gone out of us as a people if we ever let the remaining wilderness be destroyed;"

"never again will Americans be free in their own country from the noise...and ...waste.

"it was the challenge against which our character as a people was formed."


We are a wild species


A civilized man who renewed himself in the wild


"other criteria than commercial and exploitative considerations"


"sense of the bigness outside themselves"


non recreational, impractical and mystical uses


five directions of the thirty-six winds


Better a wounded wilderness than none at all


"... both as genetic banks and as beauty spots.


"It is a lovely and terrible wilderness,

such as Christ and the prophets went out into;... without a smudge of taint from Technocracy."

Contemplate the idea, take pleasure in the fact that such a timeless and uncontrolled part of the earth is still there."


"We simply need that wild country available to us,... for it can be a means of reassuring ourselves of our sanity as creatures, a part of the geography of hope."

Very sincerely yours,

Wallace Stegner

Los Altos, California

December 3, 1960


Wallace Stegner is one of the great American novelists, authors and writers.