Opening Up the Wilderness

I am most disappointed to learn that a walking track is being established, with the enthusiastic support of one of Canberra’s bushwalking clubs, along the length of the Tidbinbilla Range,  from the Camels Hump Trail near Camels Hump right across to Fishing Gap.

The Tidbinbilla Range, from Fishing Gap on the extreme left to Camel’s Hump on the far right .


The Tidbinbilla Range is still wilderness and is the best true mountain ridge in the Australian Capital Territory.   When one walks up there one feels the remoteness, the  isolation and the rugged grandeur associated with a true mountain range.     And  vitally, one knows that one is experiencing real, rugged, “away from it all”  wilderness.  Walking that ridge one needs bushwalking skills.   It is not a place for novices.   One needs to be able to find ones way.  One needs to know how to get down off the ridge should the weather change.   Now,  however, the Tidbinbilla Administration with the help of a walking club, is setting out to destroy the mountain experience by the establishment of a track which is designed to draw in many more people, most of whom will not have adequate bushwalking skills.   More importantly,  the Administration is deliberately making inroads into wilderness;  opening up the wilderness.  One can of course understand why they are doing this – the need for more visitors and greater revenue and perhaps, even, job prospects.

Looking north along the Tidbinbilla Range from Mount Domain, with Tidbinbilla Mountain prominent left of centre, and Tidbinbilla Peak on the far right

Looking south along the Tidbinbilla Range from Camel’s Hump. John’s Peak on the left, Tidbinbilla Peak, centre, and in the far distance, Tidbinbilla Mountain


What is wrong with a foot track across the Tidbinbilla Range?   After all, how many people will use it?   Won’t it still be surrounded by wilderness?    Yes, but it is the beginning of the destruction of this wilderness.   Take a look at the Lake District in Britain.  70-80 years ago there was scarcely a foot path there.  Today they are “everywhere”, erosion problems are enormous and out of control, the cost of maintaining the paths is soaring, and the numbers of people are increasing.   Vital countryside is being ruined.

I have taken the matter up with the Tidbinbilla administration and have been told that they are balancing biodiversity with people’s needs.  If we plant one of each species in our urban parks could it be said that we are maintaining biodiversity?   As for balancing biodiversity with people’s needs,  that means, in effect,  giving in to demands to use our wild areas as playgrounds at the expense of  our long term survival on our fragile earth. All wilderness could be turned into highly managed people parks.   I was also told that Tidbinbilla is not wilderness for it has not been so gazetted.   I find this a dangerous statement for it implies that politics determines what wilderness is.   In fact, all that I have been told by the Administration shows little understanding of the need to protect wilderness. However, this is a problem not limited to Tidbinbilla: it pervades all society.

The problem is that conservationists, governments, bureaucrats, walking clubs, the population at large, and various clubs, including, possibly, The National Parks Association of the A.C.T.,  only see national parks, wilderness, nature reserves, wild areas, as resources to be used by people, for whatever reason – revenue, vested interests, playgrounds.   The NPA of the ACT prides itself on being the conservation voice of the A.C.T., yet seems to me to support the establishment of trails and the use of our wild areas as resources for use by people.   This is a blind, archaic view, which shows no understanding of the real value and the needs of wilderness. It is a view that goes with the plundering of all other resources on this planet. Wilderness is not seen in the context of climate change, of population growth and the world’s very limited resources and very limited space.

Wilderness and wild areas are not seen as having a right to exist for their own sake and for the need to keep this world alive, but only as resources for our use.

Few see wilderness as something which should exist in its own right, for its own sake, something we are allowed to share, but which dictates its terms on us. Writing in TGO Magazine, (December 2002) the Editor saidThe more we damage the various elements in the great web of creation the more we affect the great interconnectedness of things around us and the more we potentially harm this planet on which we depend. Conservation then isn’t so much about saving the Earth as protecting the environment that supports mankind’. If we wish to save this planet of ours we must accept that wilderness is a vital and integrated part of a total and fragile ecosystem to support life.  We must not see it as an economic resource for man to use for his pleasure.

I have no objection to the development of the valley floor at Tidbinbilla :  this area was cleared for farming a hundred years and more ago and people do need places in which to play, but we should not be making inroads into wilderness, regardless of whether or not politicians have gazetted them as such.

The great web of creation which supports life on this beautiful planet of ours is finely balanced and interconnected. The more we damage it and the more we diminish or develop our wilderness areas, the more we diminish our own survival on Earth

* * *


In his evocative, almost poetical, insightful book, “The Thousand Mile Summer” the late Colin Fletcher, in 1964,  wrote ” Ever since Mexico I had, without altogether realising it, been on the side of the river in its struggle against man.  Now, with the beginnings of affection for it, I saw quite clearly where my sympathies lay.  And these bridges carried new threats.  They stated with cold finality what I had been hiding from myself :  that although man might move slowly, and might sometimes be repulsed, he would in the end be able to tame every yard of the Colorado and its desert.  It was inevitable, a part of the onward flow of evolution.  But evolution is full of built in stabilizers, and there would always be forces striving to conserve for posterity a few unspoiled corners of America.  The Colorado had made me understand the need for such conservation, made me feel it deep in my bones instead of merely in the confines of my brain.  And I was, perhaps, more grateful to it for this revelation than for anything else“.

His words are coming true and climate change is now threatening our very existence.  Unless we do more than just “conserve …  a few unspoiled corners”, if the destruction of wilderness “is inevitable” ,  then  mankind is doomed.   We need to see the importance of wilderness and ensure that we make no more inroads into it.



2 thoughts on “Opening Up the Wilderness

  1. I agree that wilderness has a right to remain wilderness. I also think though that trails help protect such places. When more people experience a place they are more likely to become advocates for its protection.
    So I agree with you. But I also agree with the trailmakers. I don’t know what the solution is but I think without the trail, the development that has occurred in the valley will creep upwards.
    I’m in two minds. But I personally like a good trail.

  2. Hi Solo Hiker. It is all a question of the importance of wilderness, not only for man’s soul, but also our own survival on this earth over and above our own personal needs.

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