The results from this qualitative phase have many parallels with Kellert’s (1980) typology of human-nature relationships. We would like to mention just a few of these parallels here: The conservative wilderness opponents evaluate nature from a utilitarian point of view. They assess the absence of economic exploitation negatively and are opposed to wilderness spread. This kind of view is identical with the utilitarian approach described by Kellert, in which nature is assessed according to how economically useful it is.

The leisure-oriented wilderness opponents also tend to have a utilitarian view of nature. Unlike Kellert’s (1980) utilitarian type, however, who em­phasises the economic usefulness of nature, leisure-oriented wilderness opponents tend to value nature most for providing opportunities for leisure activities.

Wilderness fans typically feel they belong to nature and accept natural phenomena unconditionally. In this they correspond to Kellert’s naturalis­tic type, who also expresses a kind of biophilia (Wilson 1993). Wilderness fans, however, also maintain that being able to have a break away from the everyday is important, and this is a defining characteristic of a positive attitude to wilderness and wilderness areas. Such a break involves, on the one hand, people being able to contrast the wilderness visually with their everyday landscape and, on the other, having a (desired) absence of rules and regulations in wilderness areas.

How important it is to be free of rules and regulations in these areas is, it seems, one criterion to consider in evaluating wilderness areas. Patterson and Watson’s (1998) survey of visitors in wilderness areas also indicates that an important motive for visits was to be able to use the wilderness in an unrestricted and individual way. This aspect of freedom from regula­tions is closely tied to the potential use of wilderness areas and is thus also indirectly utilitarian.

The numerous parallels between the patterns of reasoning we found and the typologies in Kellert’s human-nature relationships suggest that nature involving wilderness and its spread tends to be evaluated according to the same kind of criteria as those for evaluating nature in general. This obser­vation is also supported by Hunziker et al.’s findings (2001). They main­tain that people’s attitudes to changes in which nature becomes freer and humans have less influence on it, such as the re-introduction of wild ani­mals or spontaneous reforestation, are connected to their attitudes towards the relationship between humans and nature.

Our empirical analysis of attitudes to the spread of wilderness indicates that several aspects of those attitudes apparent in the human-nature rela­tionship are involved. We can conclude that, generally, the spread of wil­derness is evaluated according to the same basic criteria as nature in gen­eral, but that such evaluations tend to draw on several criteria, including some additional ones reflecting different points of view.

The results of the questionnaire survey suggest that, in addition to a dif­ferentiated evaluation of nature and wilderness, people also tend to distin­guish different kinds of “wilderness”. In defining wilderness in general they tend to refer mostly to assessment factors that are strictly scientific, and wilderness is usually described as completely untouched nature. If wilderness in or near a settled area is considered, however, then other cri­teria are evoked that have less to do with scientific definitions. Places that have become derelict and that show signs of wilderness spreading are per­ceived as wilderness, whereas other natural sites that are largely un­touched, like steep ravines, are usually not considered as wilderness.

The responses indicate that the omnipresence of human influence in peri-urban areas is incompatible with the notion of untouched nature. Unlike with the general definition of wilderness, for wilderness in a peri­urban region it is not whether nature has been left untouched that is the most important defining criterion, but whether humans have stopped using and influencing it.

The results of this study also suggest there is a discrepancy between people’s general perception of existing wilderness and their wishes for what wilderness areas should be like. A defining characteristic of wilder­ness from the point of view of the majority of the respondents is that it is not useful for people. At the same time, however, these respondents say they want to make it useful for people and to shape it to best fulfill their needs. This is a further indication that the utilitarian view is actually quite widespread. It was also evident in each of the three types distinguished during the qualitative phase.


A sustainable landscape development is only possible if people’s prefer­ences are taken into account (Mansvelt and Lubbe 1999). This means al­lowing for a full range of public opinion when designating places as wil­derness areas. The results from the qualitative phase of this study suggest that, in general, the three positions most frequently observed in the human – wilderness relationship differ markedly from each other. Their proponents tend, correspondingly, to have different requirements of wilderness areas. At the same time, the results of both the qualitative phase and the ques­tionnaire survey indicate that the utilitarian view of wilderness is very widespread, but respondents tend to differ considerably in how much they wish wilderness areas to be managed and shaped. The questionnaire survey also indicated that, from the point of view of the public, there is a discrep­ancy between perceptions of existing areas of wilderness and ideal images of wilderness. This situation means that when areas are designated as wil­derness areas, a participatory approach should be taken in which the dif­ferent stakeholders have opportunities to express their views and interests.

The typology of human-wilderness relationships highlights the motives underlying, or potentially underlying, particular attitudes and the reasoning associated with them. It may be that the wish for wilderness to be planned and designed, which assumes a certain amount of controllability, serves more or less unconsciously to reduce people’s fear of the wild.

Since nature takes different forms and the spread of wilderness changes it in different ways, it presents different kinds of threats to different peo­ple. Thus there can be no standard solutions for planning wilderness areas. Instead, individual schemes should, in each case, be developed through negotiations with local residents and with the various stakeholders. Our re­sults indicate clearly, however, that the utilitarian point of view is very widespread among the public and should be integrated in plans to desig­nate particular areas as wilderness. One way of addressing these wishes and at the same time doing justice to the original goal of protecting such an area is to set up a system for zoning wilderness areas with (1) key zones, where nature should be allowed to develop freely and largely undisturbed, but which can still be visited on guided tours, and (2) zones designed to ca­ter more to people’s need to have space for outdoor activities (e. g. picnick­ing or practising sports). Only by having schemes in which people can ex­perience wilderness directly will it be possible to increase people’s acceptance of wilderness areas and their understanding of natural proc­esses (Schemel 1998). This, in turn, would also positively influence the acceptance, in the long term, of “correct” or “real” wilderness, i. e. of wil­derness as defined according to scientific criteria.

Updated: October 3, 2015 — 8:09 pm