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Our Wilderness Is Disappearing and It Could Be Gone Way Sooner Than You Think

A sobering new study maps wilderness loss since 1992 and projects all remaining wilderness could vanish completely within 50 years if officials fail to protect these areas.

Traveler watching the Tunnel View of Yosemite National Park with El Capitan (left), Half Dome (centre background) and Bridalveil Fall (right). Yosemite National Park, California, United States. (Marji Lang/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Once wilderness is gone, it’s gone for good. A new study published by the University of Queensland finds that Earth’s wildernesses are disappearing at a rapid rate, and emphasizes that once degraded, there’s no evidence to suggest they can be fully restored.

Led by UQ professor James Watson, also a director of science with Wildlife Conservation Society, researchers mapped global wilderness areas lost since 1992. They concluded that 10 percent of all wilderness areas had vanished in that time. “If this rate continues, we will have lost all wilderness within the next 50 years,” concluded Watson.  

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