John, yes, you are correct that there are vast regions of this continent still untouched by modern civilization, save for a few footpaths and wooden signposts. There are even a few so-called "old growth forests" left in the East. It is relatively easy to get away from high rises and interstates in this country, and to find an area of wilderness where the animals and the trees are in charge, and the humans are just visitors.

However, when I say "truly pristine", I mean bearing no mark whatsoever of human civilization. Using the Grand Canyon as an example, the area was used for mining prior to becoming a National Park. Before that, American Indians lived in the canyon and left their mark on the rocks. Even now the river running through the canyon is greatly modified from its natural state by dams and runoff.

More significantly, there is probably not a place in the lower 48 that does not bear the mark of the fires that the Indians used to control their landscape. Because the Indians did not leave written records, and most of their civilizations were nearing collapse by the time of the settlers' arrival, we don't really know how much they altered the land. As you point out, Alaska and the far north may be one place that does not bear any significant mark of humans, particularly any parts that have been covered in ice since the Indians first migrated here. Other isolated areas that are nearly uninhabitable, such as Death Valley or regions in the Northern Rockies, may be relatively untouched.

Let's protect the truly great resources and wild places of this country, before they become lost as has happened in much of Europe. But let's also acknowledge the fact that the human history of this land did not start in 1872, or even in 1492. Doing so may free us to make choices about fisheries management that go beyond trying to make it look exactly like it did when the settlers first headed West.