Wilderness can be a learning tool

Letter to the editor

Posted: Monday, April 02, 2007

Once again, we have the opportunity to realize our civic duties by commenting on the management of our home, the Tongass National Forest. Others have made eloquent, and very valid, comments regarding the ecological integrity of the forest, subsistence needs, and the economics of timber compared to fishing, tourism, and other industries.

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But my comments are strictly about wilderness, and more specifically, about wilderness classrooms. I've had the great fortune to teach in a wilderness classroom for over 10 years, mostly in Alaska. I lead groups of young people on expeditions of up to 30 days. We seek out routes that have a minimum amount of contact with the outside world. When students realize that they are entirely dependent on themselves, and the others in their group, they have the potential for an incredible transformation. They learn self-reliance, responsibility, judgment, and leadership. When they realize they can't escape from the group by visiting their friends or family, or just talking to someone outside of the group, they learn how to be tolerant of and communicate with others. And these lessons aren't just contrived. These lessons are learned while it may be raining, everyone may be cold, and dinner hasn't been made yet! These are life skills. And these aren't skills that are easily taught in the conventional classroom, or even at home. Wilderness is the ideal setting.

Therefore, wilderness is a value worth preserving, especially for its value for education. Wilderness is not "locking up the land," it's opening up the land for uses that are non-consumptive and vital to the educational needs of our kids.

Therefore, I encourage anyone who has learned a lesson from wilderness, or can even imagine how it can be beneficial, to comment on the Forest Plan in support of strong wilderness protections.

Scott Harris

Sitka



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