Wednesday, September 3, 2014

50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act

“In wildness is the preservation of the world.”
― Walking by Henry David Thoreau

Today is the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Wilderness Act! If it weren't for this act we would probably have roads through every beautiful natural place right now. After the depression area Work Projects Administration developed tons of new roads and trails, came the post-WWII area of driving and recreating. It then became apparent that our desire to build and develop into pristine areas need to be harnessed.

President Lyndon B. Johnson after signing the act: "If future generations are to remember us with gratitude rather than contempt, we must leave them a glimpse of the world as it was in the beginning, not just after we got through with it."

There are TONS of folks enjoying Wilderness regularly that aren't even aware what is actually means. An area designated as a Wilderness Area (simplified to not take into account exceptions that often take place because, like a lot of laws, there are loopholes):
-prohibits motor/mechanized use (including but limited to: aircraft, motor boats, cars, motorbikes, bicycles, strollers, wheelbarrows, hang-gliders, chainsaws, power tools)
-is without permanent improvements no building or development allowed, no new mining claims, no commercial logging etc.

So if you like places without roads and like Wilderness! Wilderness Areas are managed by a variety of different agencies: National Parks, Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and Fish and Wildlife Service. So for example where I work, all of our district is Forest Service land but only a small portion within that Forest Service land is protected as Wilderness. About 5% of the land in the US is protected as Wilderness in over 700 different Wilderness Areas.

These are places not only where we can go to enjoy undeveloped environments, but places that are essential to protecting the clean air and water we need and perhaps most importantly, places where we can let ecosystems live out their processes. I am very very grateful for it and really excited to have gotten to work in one of the original areas designated under 1964 act.