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Issue 465, 23 April 2001

Steve answers the call of the wild

Wilderness is in the eye of the beholder, and almost impossible to define, but a series of events organised by senior geography lecturer Steve Carver has been trying to pin down what wilderness means and whether it can be conserved or recreated in the British countryside.

Looking for wilderness - Dr Steve Carver

Seminars, culminating in a two-day conference at the University, brought together academics and land management and conservation professionals from around the world to look at the issues surrounding what is known in the field as ‘wild land’.

"Definition is so difficult because people tend to confuse that which is ecologically wild, and that which is remote, dramatic or extreme," said Dr Carver, who also sits on the Council for National Parks wilder areas forum.

"No landscape in Britain is pristine and unaltered by human intervention and the few areas left which might be seen as wild – notably parts of the Highlands – only appear so because their tenant population was evicted in the 19th century to make way for sporting estates and sheep grazing."

Wild areas are an important resource within the countryside, both for ecological reasons and for tourism and recreation, and policy recommendations drawn up at the conference sought ways to ensure this was recognised within conservation initiatives.

Some of these recommendations are already being followed up by researchers at Leeds, such as an evaluation of the landscape and habitat potential of the UK, and a survey of experts and the public as to their attitudes to ‘wilderness’ or ‘wild land’.

To join in the survey, see or see for more details .

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