Naturalness and Biodiversity: Policy and Philosophy of Conserving Natural Areas

 Naturalness and Biodiversity: Policy and Philosophy of Conserving Natural Areas
Gordon Steinhoff
Release Date

Maintaining natural conditions and processes, or “naturalness,” is an essential goal in the management of wilderness, national parks, and other protected areas. Yet management experts routinely recommend the abandonment of naturalness as a required goal in protected areas. There are many examples of native biodiversity being lost or threatened as a result of managers manipulating protected areas to conserve “what we value” without respect for natural conditions. Too often, agencies seemingly ignore environmental goals expressed within federal law and policy in their efforts to satisfy consumer preferences, resulting in environmental degradation.

Naturalness and Biodiversity: Policy and Philosophy of Conserving Natural Areas is primarily concerned with the preservation of national parks, wilderness, and other legally protected areas through proper interpretation and application of federal environmental law and policy. Philosophers, legal scholars, and land use managers alike will appreciate the interdisciplinary approach Prof. Gordon Steinhoff takes with his discussion of philosophy, ecology, and environmental policy. Although Naturalness and Biodiversity may be controversial, calling into question much that has been written by philosophers and by leading land management and restoration experts, it offers a needed response to much that appears in the current environmental literature, providing thoughtful analysis on why naturalness is essential for the preservation of native biodiversity.

About the Author

Gordon Steinhoff is an associate professor of philosophy. His teaching interests include philosophy of science, deductive logic, metaphysics, and environmental philosophy. He has taught at Grinnell College, Utah State University, and other schools. He earned a Ph.D. in philosophy of science at Indiana University, and an M.S. in zoology at the University of British Columbia. Gordon’s research is interdisciplinary. He likes to explore the intersection of philosophy, ecology, and environmental policy. He has published articles on the Wilderness Act of 1964, the National Environmental Policy Act, mitigation banking, ecological restoration, and other topics. Gordon has been active in a number of local environmental and community organizations. His favorite pastimes include hiking, bicycling, gardening, playing music, and reading mystery novels.

Book Reviews

Without some serious thinking and perhaps rethinking, many of our key natural resource management concepts from the past – wilderness, naturalness, preservation, restoration, conservation – are on a catastrophic collision course with the realities of our current and future environmental challenges. While it is not clear that these concepts will serve us in the future, it is equally not clear that we can or should simply kick them to the curb as quaint but antiquated conservation mumbo jumbo. We urgently, desperately need a new search for conceptual wisdom that parallels our efforts in science and technology. The essays in this book meet that challenge head on.

—Michael Paul Nelson, Ruth H. Spaniol Chair of Renewable Resources and Professor of Environmental Ethics and Philosophy, Oregon State University

In Naturalness and Biodiversity, philosopher Gordon Steinhoff combines thoughtful and nuanced reflection on assumptions behind the Wilderness Act of 1964 and other federal policies with bold, well-reasoned suggestions on how to make American federal wilderness management policies responsive to what citizens find valuable.  Calling into question received views as to what ought to be involved in managing and restoring natural lands, Steinhoff persuasively shows how the “natural conditions” of wilderness can be managed without reducing wilderness lands to human cultural artifacts. Accessible, exceptionally researched, and rich with well-chosen examples, this book should appeal to all with an interest in environmental philosophy, public policy, and law.

—Diane P. Michelfelder, Professor, Department of Philosophy, Macalester College