John Miles - Research Interests

Department of Environmental Studies, Huxley College of the Environment at WWU

Wilderness in National Parks: Playground or Preserve was published by the University of Washington Press in 2009. Earlier drafts of this project carried the story of national park wilderness to the situation in 2008, but we decided to confine our attention to “history” so concluded that book at the turn of the millennium. Now I am trying to describe the current wilderness situation, probably confining my focus to national parks, but perhaps not. There is still much national park wilderness to be designated part of the National Wilderness Preservation System, and the challenges of doing that is part of the story. The National Park Service talks about wilderness, but many issues of wilderness management abound in wilderness parks, and the agency’s long-range visioning does not seem to have much to say about wilderness values as a core part of their future. Finally, the idea of wilderness is being critiqued in many ways, raising many intriguing questions about the future of the idea and the wilderness itself. I am looking into all of this in hopes of ultimately writing a book that describes the current wilderness challenges of our national park system.

A second project is a collection of essays about “Change in the Range,” how the North Cascade Mountains are changing. Various forces are behind these changes: climate change (and consequent glacial melt and alteration of mountain communities); the politics and economics of resource management; changing patterns of recreation use; and changing perceptions of the place by those who live around it and come to visit. What does all of this suggest for the future of this place? Many intriguing questions arise.

And, on the education side of things, I have spent 44 years conducting education programs of various kinds focusing on the environment and particularly on the North Cascades. I am writing essays about experiential learning, outdoor and environmental education, and placed-based learning that mine these many years of work in this field.