1998 Wilderness Society Population Policy


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Adopted February 22, 1996 -- two days before the current Sierra Club "neutrality policy" was adopted.
Over the past hundred years, the population of the United States has increased dramatically, doubling approximately every fifty years. Population growth projections indicate that by the year 2050, the U.S. will need to find room for more than 520 million people, twice our current population of 264 million.
The consequences to our wild lands and all their resources would be overwhelming. A striking illustration is the national park system: since 1940, the U.S. population has doubled, but park visitation has increased sixteen times. Recreational demand on our other public lands -- the forests, wildlife refuges, and Bureau of Land Management lands -- has also reached record numbers. An increase only one-half as great in the next fifty years would devastate these areas, diminishing the quality of visitors' experience and reducing resources to unsustainable levels. Population pressure curtails the immediate benefits we receive from natural lands -- such as new sources of medicine, watershed protection, and enhanced quality of life for local communities. This pressure also denies us opportunities for recreation and renewal through experience with nature. It diminishes the quality of the world we pass on to our grandchildren.
In recognition of the consequences of population growth to our wild lands, The Wilderness Society espouses these five principles:

  1. As a priority, population policy should protect and sustain ecological systems for future generations.
  2. We will support policies that have a goal of reaching population stability, at the earliest practicable date, through means respectful of human rights and individual conscience.
  3. The Wilderness Society, in its work to inform our membership and the general public about threats to the public land and wilderness ecosystems, will include analysis of the pressures of population growth on these lands.
  4. When federal, state and local governments analyze costs and benefits of programs and projects, they should include population growth projections. The Wilderness Society will consider these projections in its own analyses and discussions of land use.
  5. One-half to two-thirds of U.S. population growth results from domestic births and longer life spans. One-third to one-half is due to immigration. To bring population levels to ecologically sustainable levels, both birth rates and immigration rates need to be reduced.


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