Myth 21: Wilderness ignores the knowledge of rural populations
Myth: Wilderness ignores the perspectives/ knowledge of rural populations (Gomez-Pampa and Kaus, 1992).
Truth: Presumably this means that wilderness activists ignore local people. This seems to suggest that only ‘locals’ know anything about wilderness areas, which is patently untrue. Where there is real knowledge scientists and activists are very keen to find it, whether this comes from indigenous or other local communities. Where there are biased stories or myths, there is a need for skepticism. In regard to the Alps, up to half a million sheep and tens of thousands of cattle once grazed on Kosciuszko’s mountain pastures. Graziers burnt the slopes remorselessly to encourage new grass. This and the pounding of hard hooves caused serious soil erosion (White 1997 Listen the land is crying). Where grazing by ungulates has been removed, the alpine flora has returned. The perspectives of the ‘horse culture’ in the Alps were in fact damaging to the natural environment. The ‘Man from Snowy River’ is an Australian cultural narrative that in reality ignores the damage caused to the land by horses and stock-grazing. If the protection of wilderness was left to adjacent communities, it would probably never have been reserved in national parks, as they do not have an overview of what is happening over the State or the Nation. This was certainly true of Wollemi NP in NSW (Washington 2004 in Colong BMWH). However, the same local communities are now proud of this wilderness national park, since its significance is now commonly understood.