Australia: Our national stories
Australian Heritage Commission, 2003
ISBN 0 642 23561 9
6. Concluding Remarks
Wilderness quality assessments produced in NWI wilderness surveys are dependent on two key factors: the modelling used to generate estimates of wilderness quality and the quality and content of the primary data used in running the model. Both are critical, not simply for producing results, but also for the sensible interpretation and use of these results. The concluding remarks of this handbook are devoted to making clear the major concepts and assumptions at the heart of NWI wilderness assessment modelling together with some important issues concerning the makeup of primary data. Special emphasis is given to the implications which both factors have on the interpretation and use of results.
NWI wilderness assessment techniques are designed to produce a set of relatively straightforward, easy to interpret sets of indices which describe variation in the environmental attributes that underpin concepts of wilderness.
The principles which are at the foundation of the approach are as follows:
- Remoteness and naturalness are the environmental attributes that are common to all concepts and definitions of wilderness. While there is enormous variety in the range of cultural perspectives, values, and uses which are (and have been) associated with wilderness, the environmental attributes which are fundamental to all are relative remoteness and lack of disturbance from the impact and influences of modern technological society.
- Remoteness and naturalness vary by degree across the landscape. These variations may be measured consistently and repeatably using a set of appropriately constructed indicators.
- Landscape-wide measures of degrees of remoteness and naturalness constitute a core set of attributes for use as a foundation for wilderness value assessments. Each indicator should be considered independently for the contribution it makes to wilderness quality.
- There is no specific level or combination of remoteness and naturalness measures that can uniformly distinguish wilderness from non-wilderness. This fact stems from the broad range of wilderness concepts, the equally broad range of values and purposes which are (and have historically been) attributed to wilderness, and changes in the supply (resource base) of remote and natural lands.
- Wilderness indicators are indicative of levels of remoteness and naturalness. They are not indicative of the value of remote and natural lands. Remote and natural areas will be considered 'wilderness' (or similar) where the intrinsic existence of these attributes is recognised in society. They will be protected when the value of these attributes is considered greater than those of competing alternative uses.
It can be seen from a reading of these fundamental principles that results produced from the wilderness assessment model need to be interpreted carefully. The product of the modelling process is, in effect, a statement of Australia's remote and natural land resources. The result should not be interpreted as a catalogue of wilderness areas.
Neither should the results of the survey be seen as comprising a case for the protection or setting aside of areas, or as an all-encompassing assessment of conservation value. The NWI is designed to produce a limited set of data that relates specifically to measures of degrees of remoteness and naturalness. These attributes have their most logical and direct use in making assessments of wilderness quality; they also have a useful contribution to make in more broadly based conservation assessment.