Addressing weak legal protection of wilderness: Deliberate choices and drawing lines on the map

Kees Bastmeijer

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterScientific

    3 Citations (Scopus)


    Wilderness areas are characterized by a relatively high degree of naturalness, the absence of proof of modern human society (e.g., roads, buildings, bridges, motorized transportation) and a relatively large size (IUCN 2008). Worldwide, wilderness areas are becoming more scarce and this article focuses on the role of law in protecting such areas. The discussion starts with an analysis of the historic human-nature attitude in Western society and how this attitude has influenced legal concepts regarding private property on land and territorial sovereignty. It will be shown that these concepts have stimulated active land transformation by humankind and that (as a consequence) wilderness protection is not embedded in our Western legal roots. Next, the discussion focuses on the response to the increasing awareness of the downside of modern human civilization: a changing human-nature attitude in the Nineteenth Century and the adoption of a large number of international nature protection conventions in the Twentieth Century. However, all this ‘law making’ has not resulted in comprehensive wilderness protection at the global or regional level, which may be explained by a number of important weaknesses in these conventions and their implementation. Probably, many of these weaknesses have much to do with weaknesses of humankind itself, such as the difficulty to accept limitations to our social and economic ambitions and our disability to deal with accumulative impacts. Against the background of these discussions, the final part of this chapter discusses options for strengthening wilderness protection with an emphasis on the importance of making deliberate policy choices to protect wilderness.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationMapping wilderness
    Subtitle of host publicationConcepts, techniques and applications
    EditorsSteffen Fritz, Stephen Carver
    Place of PublicationDordrecht
    Number of pages20
    ISBN (Electronic)978-94-017-7399-7
    ISBN (Print)978-94-017-7397-3
    Publication statusPublished - 2016


    • wilderness
    • wilderness protection
    • wilderness law
    • human-nature relationship
    • mapping wilderness
    • GIS
    • nature conservation
    • nature conservation law
    • biodiversity
    • accumulative impacts
    • naturalness
    • ecosystems


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