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Wilderness, Rewilding and Free-willed Ecosystems: Evolving Concepts in Stewardship of IUCN Protected Category 1b Areas

Alan E.Watson;Steve Carver;HUANG Cheng;YANG He;European Wilderness Society;  
The concept of wilderness has different meanings to different people. In the US, the Wilderness Act of 1964 defined it officially for US government land management purposes, though continuous research has improved our understanding of attributes, values and threats associated with our National Wilderness Preservation System. Subsequent US legislation in the 1970s expanded wilderness designation to the eastern US where lands had been heavily influenced by commodity extraction, and wild areas were smaller in size but physically closer to a large part of the American population. Legislation doubled the US system in 1980 by including lands in Alaska but with many special provisions to accommodate subsistence use by rural people and existing mechanical means of access. Conservation biologists have capitalized on this existing wilderness system to "rewild" larger landscapes. Such rewilded landscapes have wilderness at the core, and are connected to other areas through ecological corridors that allow large predators and their prey to be re-established and thrive. The concept of rewilding has evolved in definition and application, including being used by conservation activists in a "plastic" sense, or as context requires. With new guidelines issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature for management of wilderness(protected area category 1b), these concepts need to be understood and potentially applied in different cultural context situations in countries considering initiating or expanding wilderness designation.
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