It was 50 years ago, on September 3, 1964, that President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the Wilderness Act. This historic bill established the National Wilderness Preservation System (NWPS) and set aside an initial 9.1 million acres of wildlands for the use and benefit of the American people. Over the past 50 years, and as a result of America’s support for wilderness, Congress has added over 100 million acres to this unique land preservation system.
The 1964 Wilderness Act defines “Wilderness” as areas where the earth and its communities of life are left unaltered by people, where the primary forces of nature are in control, and where people themselves are only temporary visitors.
These natural areas are reserved for the purpose and enjoyment for the people and provides many direct and in-direct benefits, such as those relating to ecological, geological, scientific, educational, scenic, spiritual, economic, recreational, historical, and cultural uses and activities. The 757 wilderness areas within the NWPS are managed by all four federal land managing agencies, the Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service, Forest Service, and National Park Service and protected and respected by all of us!
This anniversary is a wonderful chance to celebrate all that’s been achieved for wilderness in the past 50 years and remind Americans of all that we can achieve in the next 50. So get outdoors, visit wilderness near you and take a deep breath of gratitude for those that made sure we, as a nation, protected our nature!