Conservation vs Preservation

How do conservation and preservation approach trailbuilding?

Conservation and Trailbuilding

Many groups with active participation with the outdoors-U.S. Forestry Service, Boy Scouts, &c-recognize the attraction of the wilderness to much of the American population. Recognizing this, these organizations have worked to minimize the impact of visitors to these natural areas through the building of trails and campsites, which concentrates the impact of visitors into specific areas of the wilderness. In this way, conservation makes it possible for people to enjoy the wilderness without risking the large-scale destruction of otherwise pristine wilderness areas. For example, Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, New Mexico has nearly 375 miles of trails spread out among 214 square miles (more if the Valle Vidal basin and Carson National Forest are included) and these trails are carefully maintained by both the Ranch's full-time staff and volunteer trail crews. While most of the work done involves regular maintenance of trails and trail surfaces, new trails are occasionally required by addition of new camps or changes in programs; these new trails are only made after months of careful geographical surveys and extensive planning. Conversely, some trails within the camp are allowed to fall out of use when possible to help the land return to its natural state.


Preservation and trailbuilding

While conservation attempts to balance human use (or enjoyment) of the land and the long-term sustainability of the land, preservation shuns any semblance of balance, desiring only to maintain a 'pristine' landscape that is free of any overt human influence. This obviously contraindicates virtually all trailbuilding within a protected area, since trails are largely constructed in the wilderness to allow people to access such areas much easier. While trails would be forbidden under a preservationist understanding of wilderness areas, a small number of trained visitors could, in theory, be allowed to enter such protected areas-which is the standard for areas such as the National Wildlife Refuges spread across the country and managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service. While it does distance people from the wilderness it seeks to protect, preservation ensures that any potential human impact is kept as low as possible.


Conservation-limited and maintained trails

Preservation-No trails at all