You misrepresent my argument, as well as Cronon's. Both Cronon in is essay and I in mine explicitly state that parks and other more heavily protected areas such as those receiving Wilderness protection under the Wilderness Act are indeed critical to efforts to fight climate change and biodiversity loss. However, there are better and worse arguments for protecting certain areas and there are negative (and unintended) consequences to seeing natural systems as only being actually/potentially functional in the near or complete absence of humans. For one thing, there is no place that hasn't been altered by human activity either directly or indirectly and there hasn't been for quite some time. For another, the clear implication of that message is that there is little to nothing we can do where we live to improve other species chances of survival. Nature is not remote. It's as close as the air we breath and the gardens we grow and seeing that doesn't make a willingness to protect wilderness less likely in my view but more.

I never said the "Indian wars" in the United States or efforts to drive Indigenous peoples from their lands elsewhere were motivated by a desire to remove them so these lands could be enjoyed as national parks or other conservation areas. What I contended, correctly from an historical perspective, is that the lands we have set aside for conservation have a long history of being inhabited and/or utilized by people and in some cases those native people are still living on or very near those lands. Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monuments, Trump's attempt to reduce their size notwithstanding, are two prominent contemporary cases in point. The Wilderness Act, Antiquities Act, and other conservation laws tend to refer only to the history of past human occupation as though Indigenous peoples have absolutely no presence or interest in the management of many of these areas in the present. They also tend to describe areas, many of which were frankly once more populated by people than they are today, as "pristine", meaning humans have either been purged or moved on and in either case, from a conservation perspective, that is seen as a good thing or at the very least a necessary one. That framing is problematic from an Indigenous rights perspective and it is philosophically problematic in that it ultimately rests upon dualism.

The point here when it comes to the history of human occupation and or use of these areas is not that it’s okay for humans to do certain things in areas the Wilderness Act or other environmental laws currently prohibit or restrict. The point is that our conservation efforts will be enhanced if we have a clear eyed view both of our historical use and current understanding of how humans relate to, interact with, and depend upon the environment. Land management decisions do not occur in a vacuum; neither an historical one nor a contemporary public policy and multicultural one. Where I’m currently living on Vancouver Island, access to the watershed that supplies our drinking water is strictly prohibited to protect that water supply for safe human use. These restrictions obviously also have considerable benefit to the plants and wildlife within the area even though protecting these species is not the primary reason for setting aside these lands. That said, accommodations were also recently made to allow the First Nations people still living in the area to enter this watershed to hunt and engage in other traditional activities because the area that supplies our water is a part of their traditional territory, a territory seized by us without their blessing. Both the agency charged with protecting the watershed and the First Nations have reached an accommodation that respects Indigenous rights and maintains protections to the water supply. The point being, environmental management is human management whether we like it or not. Treating humanity and the environment as two separate things is ultimately unworkable.

Finally, yes, all species do matter. I wasn’t aware there was a version of environmentalism that thought only some did, not a logically consistent one at any rate. I guess your point is humans don’t matter, or not as much. Good luck persuading people to see the benefit of conservation with that position. I can only say the fight doesn’t seem to be going all that well from where I sit.

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US citizen residing in British Columbia, Canada. Degrees include anthropology and environmental studies. Activism, politics, science, nature.

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