Over the past hundred years, the population of the United States has increased dramatically, doubling approximately every fifty years. Population growth projections indicate that by the year 2050, the U.S. will need to find room for more than 520 million people, twice our current population of 264 million.
The consequences to our wild lands and all their resources would be overwhelming. A striking illustration is the national park system: since 1940, the U.S. population has doubled, but park visitation has increased sixteen times. Recreational demand on our other public lands -- the forests, wildlife refuges, and Bureau of Land Management lands -- has also reached record numbers. An increase only one-half as great in the next fifty years would devastate these areas, diminishing the quality of visitors' experience and reducing resources to unsustainable levels. Population pressure curtails the immediate benefits we receive from natural lands -- such as new sources of medicine, watershed protection, and enhanced quality of life for local communities. This pressure also denies us opportunities for recreation and renewal through experience with nature. It diminishes the quality of the world we pass on to our grandchildren.
In recognition of the consequences of population growth to our wild lands, The Wilderness Society espouses these five principles: