The Great Debate
For 40 years, the American West has been the nation’s battleground for the preservation of wild lands. But have 21st-century growth and energy demands relegated wilderness to the pages of history? Robert Redford joins a group of diverse voices in debating the need and purpose of wilderness in WILDERNESS: THE GREAT DEBATE, a visually stunning documentary by KUED’s John Howe.
The scope of the film ranges from the Arctic to the Amazon, with a focus on environmental issues of the American West. “Is the West going to be reduced to just photos and films to show young people how it used to be, or are there going to be places where they can go and see the way it used to be, like wilderness and like national parks?” Redford asks. On the other hand, Commissioner Mark Habbeshaw of Kane County, Utah, says, “This is a war for rural people, for state and local sovereignty, to protect what little sovereignty we have left as a rural people; to protect our traditions, our culture our ability to manage our lives with a diversified economy.”
Narrated by actor Peter Coyote, WILDERNESS: THE GREAT DEBATE features some of the issue’s biggest stars: Robert Redford, Page Stegner, President Obama’s Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, President Clinton’s Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt, President Kennedy’s Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall and William Meadows of the Wilderness Society, with cameo appearances from President Obama, President Clinton, former Vice President Al Gore, Wallace Stegner and former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.
“The wilderness advocates say that we need to protect those lands for future generations,” says Habbeshaw. “What they’re actually doing is locking those lands up from future generations, and there are other designations that can keep those lands open and still protect them from abuse.”