Today marks the 50th anniversary of The Wilderness Act, the landmark conservation bill that created a way for Americans to protect their most pristine wildlands for future generations. It is considered one of America’s greatest conservation achievements. The Wilderness Act was written by Howard Zahniser of The Wilderness Society.
On September 3rd, 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed this historic Act protecting our wildest places from any form of development, providing the highest level of protection accorded to any federal lands. No roads, vehicles or permanent structures are allowed in designated wilderness areas. When LBJ signed the Act, he made the following statement:
“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.”
In 1964, when the bill was signed, the Wilderness Act protected 9 million acres of nature to thrive—today the Act protects nearly 110 million acres, representing 758 places across 44 states (about 5% of the US, with half of the protected wilderness areas in Alaska). While the Act is certainly an impressive achievement and will leave a legacy for many years to come, there’s still work to be done. According to The Wilderness Society, each day thousands of acres of unprotected lands are lost to development, threatening our precious lands and wildlife.
Our wilderness areas belong to us and we must be proactive and responsible:
- Reconnect with nature—get outdoors and play, take hikes and walks, enjoy the beauty of our natural world
- Leave the areas how you found them—employ the Leave No Trace principles
- Stay educated on issues and legislation affecting our wilderness areas
- Share your voice and fight to expand the protection of our wilderness areas. Contact your elected officials.
Happy 50th Birthday Wilderness Act. Today you can celebrate by heading outside and enjoying the beauty of our natural world. Take a picture of what you see and share it here on Spotted! to remind everyone of what we are protecting.
Thank you Howard Zahniser, LBJ, The Wilderness Society and everyone who helped pass the Wilderness Act and who continues to fight to protect our wildest places.