ilderness WAir and Water Quality
While the benefits of wilderness are systems that clean them naturally. As many, the value of clean air and water world populations increase, clean air and is a benefit evident to almost everyone water will become more valuable to the across all lands. People, plants and nation and the world because increased animals rely on clean air and water, and human development often degrades air wilderness areas are sources of clean and water quality. air and water via the wild, undisturbed
Why Wilderness Is Important to Air and Water Quality
Wilderness areas are largely free from Reflecting the value of water from human development, disturbance, and wilderness, a study conducted by the manipulation, and as such they improve Internet Research Information Series the quality of our air and water because found that, “Over 90 percent of Americans undisturbed ecosystems protect some said protection of air and water quality “Over 90 percent of of the cleanest airsheds and watersheds are very to extremely important values Americans said protection in the nation. The streams and rivers of Wilderness.” The results echo those of of air and water quality flowing from wilderness provide natural the 2000 National Survey on Recreation are very to extremely filtration that makes air and water clean, and the Environment, a study conducted important values of a benefit that is found downstream by the Forest Service and the National Wilderness.” in drinking water across the nation. Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Many wilderness areas contain forests, Just as the Wilderness Act protects which are known to cleanse the air. wilderness areas, the Clean Air Act Forests clean and oxygenate the air protects air quality values within as trees naturally intercept airborne wilderness areas. Wilderness areas in particles, reduce heat, and absorb existence as of August 7, 1977 that are pollutants such as carbon monoxide, larger than 5,000 acres are protected sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide. under the Clean Air Act, a law that set They reduce air pollution by lowering air a national visibility goal of no human- temperature, through respiration, and by caused impairment. This is difficult, Stikine-LeConte Wilderness, AK US Forest Service photo retaining particulates. since most pollutants can travel great distances. To ensure preservation of air or cultural resources. Overall air quality is quality, the wilderness management tested by monitoring visibility, rainwater, agencies monitor air pollution that may surface waters, and lichens. impact flora, fauna, water, odor, visibility
Undisturbed ecosystems in wilderness National Park; Albuquerque, New Mexico, have hydrological filtering effects that to Colorado’s Weminuche Wilderness. produce clean water. As such, many communities get their water from Some wilderness areas were designated sources that start flowing in wilderness. in order to preserve healthy watersheds According to the Forest Service, two- for current and future generations, thirds of the nation’s runoff, excluding such as the Rattlesnake Wilderness Alaska, comes from forested areas, just outside of Missoula, Montana. The including wilderness, and 60 million Rattlesnake National Recreation Area Americans get their water from these and Wilderness Act of 1980 states watersheds. that the “area has long been used as a wilderness by Montanans and by people Large watersheds are composed of throughout the Nation who value it as smaller watersheds, a fact that allows a source of...clean, free-flowing waters many communities to map their water stored and used for municipal purposes for source back to one or more wilderness over a century.” areas. Fresno, California, for example, Some wilderness areas can map back its water source to the The Great Swamp National Wildlife were designated in order Sierra Nevada Mountains and many Refuge Wilderness in New Jersey to preserve healthy wilderness areas, such as the Yosemite, exemplifies a wilderness area that was watersheds… Ansel Adams, John Muir, Dinkey Lakes, designated because it provides other Kaiser, Monarch, and Sequoia-Kings water-related services including flood Canyon Wildernesses. Washington D.C. control, groundwater recharge, and can map its water source back to within storm water detention and filtration. designated wilderness in Shenandoah
John Muir Wilderness, CA Wilderness Photo by Greg Dusic Air and Water Quality 2