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Wilderness and the law.

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Wilderness areas face serious threats to their integrity and continued existence. The law has a critical role to play in their protection. To be effective, however, the law must be based on sound philosophical and socio-economic considerations. There is increasing recognition, internationally and nationally, of the utilitarian, intrinsic and biocentric values of wilderness and wildlife. There is also an international trend toward recognition and accommodation of tribal cultures and their traditional natural resource harvesting rights within national legal and political systems. Effective protection of the wilderness resource on which South African tribal cultures depend for their continued existence is essential. Communities adjacent to wilderness areas must be allowed to participate in the determination of the boundaries of, the preparation and implementation of the management plans for, and the benefits derived from, such areas. Wilderness management in South Africa must be linked to economic planning and rural development. The values of wilderness to humankind are increasingly being recognised and protected in international treaties and national legal systems. A comparative analysis of relevant events in the United States, in particular, clearly demonstrates that the most effective vehicle for establishment of a national wilderness system is a national wilderness statute. South Africa should acknowledge the international trend towards wilderness preservation, take instruction from the legal initiatives and protective mechanisms adopted in other countries, recognise that its wilderness is a global heritage, and accept ' that it has an obligation to protect what remains of its wild country, not only in the interests of its present and future generations, but also in the interests of the world community. A review of the history and current status of wilderness in South Africa, and of the laws which indirectly or directly provide protection of wilderness areas, wilderness values, or wilderness equivalents, suggests that there is a need for a new legal dispensation for the preservation of the remnants of South African wilderness. At present there is statutory protection of declared wilderness areas in State forests only, in terms of the Forest Act 122 of 1984. There is no direct legislative protection of wilderness on other public lands, and no legal protection of wilderness on private land. Effective and sustainable protection of South African wilderness will best be achieved through the medium of an appropriate national Wilderness Act.


Thesis (LL.D.)-University of Natal, Durban, 1992.


Wilderness areas--Law and legislation--South Africa., Environmental law--South Africa., Theses--Law.