Myth 17: Wilderness is an outdated model and ‘biosphere reserves’ are better

Myth: Wilderness is an outdated model, while the ‘biosphere reserve’ is a better model (Callicott 2003). This would appear to be an argument for multiple use:

We find the appropriate alternative in the concept of biosphere reserves … A policy of invasive human management – by means of, say, prescribed burning or carefully planned culling – is cognitively dissonant with the wilderness idea, but not with the biosphere reserve idea. Indeed one of the signal differences between the old wilderness idea and the new concept of biosphere reserves is a provision for compatible human residence and economic activity in and around reserves. (Callicott 2003, p. 440)

Truth: While Callicott and Mumford (1997) acknowledge that biodiversity core areas, equivalent to wilderness, are an integral part of a biosphere reserve approach, Callicott (2003) proposes ‘biosphere reserves’ instead of wilderness. In response to this, Noss (2003b) points out that it is not a question of either/ or:

Biosphere reserves are not, however, an alternative to wilderness. In fact wilderness is the central part of the biosphere reserve model: the core area. Without a wilderness core, a biosphere reserve could not fulfil its function of maintaining the full suite of native species and natural processes … wilderness areas will have much to teach us about how we might dwell harmoniously with nature in the buffer zones.