“Wilderness” is defined in the Wilderness Act as “an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” The act protects some of the prettiest places in the United States. In Arizona, 90 designated wilderness areas comprise more than 4.5 million acres. Our photographer went to every single one of them.
A Portfolio by Jonathan Buford
Healthy agaves punctuate a view of two remote seasonal waterfalls in the Mazatzal Wilderness, southwest of Payson.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Jonathan Buford grew up in Ohio, but after he moved to Arizona in the early 2000s, he fell in love with the concept of wilderness — and with landscape photography. Those two passions merged in his years-long effort to visit and photograph all 90 of Arizona’s federally designated wilderness areas, a small portion of which are pictured in this portfolio. “I wanted to see them all, but more than that, I wanted to understand them all,” he recalls. “Back then, the state seemed so vast and insurmountable, but I had the audacity to believe I could do it. My main goal is to show future generations what these places look like, so they can better understand things like erosion and degradation. And I want to create stewards of the land — and remind everyone that we play a role in protecting these places.” Buford also notes that this country’s
wilderness preservation system is fairly unique. “Systemic ways of preserving parcels of natural landscape, while keeping them public, are rare,” he says. “We’re more lucky than we know — and more wild than we believe. I’d like to influence that wild side in everyone.”