Wilderness preservation historically is one of the central concerns of the environmental movement. Wilderness also is a central feature in conversations that go back for millennia about what nonhuman nature is, why it has value, and how people are related to it. Large sections of the Earth are now protected as wilderness areas. There are, however, many criticisms of wilderness and its preservation, and a debate now ensues about what wilderness is and how and why it should or should not be preserved or protected.

Some of the problems with wilderness preservation arise from controversy over what the term wilderness means. The term stems from the Old English term wildeornes, which can be traced back to wil(d)deor—meaning wild deer or wild animals—or wildeorern—wild in the ...

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