A Celebration of Wilderness

It's a time for celebration! Jan 21, 2015 marks the 80th anniversary of The Wilderness Society. This is a wonderful chance to celebrate all that you have helped us achieve for wilderness since 1935 and remind Americans of all that we can achieve in the next 80 years.

2015 marks the 80th anniversary of The Wilderness Society. See some of what we have done to protect wilderness and other wildlands. (Photo: Soda Mountain Wilderness (Oregon) Credit: BLM, flickr.)

1924-02-01 00:00:00

New Mexico's Gila Wilderness created

Ecologist Aldo Leopold, The Wilderness Society co-founder, spearheads the designation of the Gila Wilderness in New Mexico. In a 1921 article asserting America’s need for wilderness, Leopold offered his criteria for wilderness areas – “a continuous stretch of country preserved in its natural state, open to lawful hunting and fishing, big enough to absorb a two weeks’ pack trip, and devoid of roads, artificial trails, cottages, or other works of man.” Gila Wilderness became the nation’s first such federally designated area, the prototype for what would eventually become a system of wilderness areas.

1930-02-01 00:00:00

First campaign for a national wilderness system

Bob Marshall leads the campaign for a national system of wilderness areas. As a result, more than 14 million acres of “primitive areas” are established within national forests.

1935-02-04 00:00:00

The Wilderness Society Established

Since opening its doors in 1935, The Wilderness Society has worked to protect the millions of acres of public lands that all Americans own. Aldo Leopold, Bob Marshall and Robert Sterling Yard were among its founders. The Wilderness Society has contributed to historic moments in the national conservation movement, helping to pass dozens of wilderness bills. Our work was instrumental in passing the 1964 Wilderness Act, which establish the National Wilderness Preservation System.

1940-08-16 01:37:18

Bob Marshall Wilderness protected by Forest Service

In 1939, The Wilderness Society co-founder Bob Marshall died at the age of 39. It was a tragedy, but he had already made his mark in the world of public lands conservation. It was with this legacy in mind that Agriculture Secretary Henry A. Wallace established the 950,000-acre Bob Marshall Wilderness in Montana. The wilderness now covers more than 1 million total acres, making it the fifth largest in the continental U.S., and is considered an icon of the National Wilderness Preservation System.

1945-03-01 00:00:00

Howard Zahniser joins Wilderness Society leadership

In 1945, Howard Zahniser joined The Wilderness Society, first serving as executive secretary and editor of the organization’s magazine The Living Wilderness, and later as the organization’s executive director.

1949-01-01 17:03:47

“A Sand County Almanac” published

The Wilderness Society co-founder Aldo Leopold’s opus, published posthumously, made a case for the sanctity of wild places and outlined the idea of the “land ethic,” a concept of extending mankind’s community to plants, animals and even the earth itself. It became one of the iconic books on nature and the environment, and has been reprinted around the world.

1950-03-01 00:00:00

Howard Zahniser successfully blocks Echo Park Dam construction

Howard Zahniser leads an unprecedented fight against a proposed dam that would have stopped the flow of the Green and Yampa rivers in the middle of Dinosaur National Monument. The Echo Park Dam was part of a Bureau of Reclamation proposal issued in 1949 that aimed to build a substantial hydroelectric project in the national monument as part of the Upper Colorado River Storage Project. In 1955 the issue was resolved and the dam was not built. The Echo Park Dam represents the beginning of an era of major conservation wins that gave us the Wilderness Act, the Clean Air Act and the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, among others.

1956-02-01 00:00:00

Wilderness Act Drafted

Howard Zahniser writes the first draft of the Wilderness Act in 1956 to protect some of the nation’s remaining wilderness. The bill would take another 8 years to pass. Once it did, it created our National Wilderness Preservation System.

1964-09-03 00:00:00

Wilderness Act signed into law

After eight years and 66 revisions, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Wilderness Act into law on Sept. 3, 1964. The act created the National Wilderness Preservation System and immediately put 9.1 million acres into that system, including Montana’s Bob Marshall Wilderness, permanently protecting them as designated wilderness. Tragically, Howard Zahniser, who drafted the first Wilderness Act in 1956, passed away just months before his bill was signed into law.

1968-02-01 00:00:00

First U.S. Fish and Wildlife wilderness created

The first U.S. Fish and Wildlife wilderness area is designated: Great Swamp Wilderness in New Jersey. Up until this point, all wilderness areas had been created on national forests.

A Celebration of Wilderness

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