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.)

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Earth Day created by Senator Gaylord Nelson

Sen. Gaylord Nelson, former counselor to The Wilderness Society, helps create Earth Day, adding official support to environmental consciousness. Its official celebration is April 22, but the many threats wilderness is facing make it critical to declare every day Earth Day.

First National Park Service Wilderness Created

The first wilderness areas within National Park Service sites are designated: Craters of the Moon National Wilderness Area in Idaho and Petrified Forest National Wilderness Area in Arizona.

First citizen-proposed wilderness areas created

The first two wilderness areas proposed by citizens are designated: Scapegoat Wilderness in Montana and an addition to the Eagle Cap Wilderness in Oregon.

56 million acres of new wilderness created

The Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) designates 56 million acres of new wilderness. The statute protected over 100 million acres of federal lands in Alaska, doubling the size of the country’s national park and refuge system and tripling the amount of land designated as wilderness. ANILCA expanded the national park system in Alaska by over 43 million acres, creating 10 new national parks and increasing the acreage of three existing units.

First Bureau of Land Management wilderness created

The Bear Trap Canyon unit of the Lee Metcalf Wilderness in Montana becomes the first wilderness on Bureau of Land Management lands.

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