The Wilderness Act Turns 50

Mount Hood Wilderness, OR

The Wilderness Preservation Act was signed into law exactly 50 years ago today. This anniversary is making headlines across the country, as it is a day for all outdoor enthusiasts to take a moment and reflect on the legacy made possible by the Wilderness Act.

To prepare you for this exciting day, we have compiled a list of important facts and resources about the Wilderness Act and the state of wilderness today.

Wilderness: The Act, Facts and Resources

1.      Experience this historic event by listening to the audio recording of President Lyndon B. Johnson as he signs the Wilderness Preservation Act into law on September 3, 1964. (Hint:  For maximum wilderness education, start playing this recording before continuing on to #2)

2.      The definition of wilderness, as outlined in the Wilderness Act, is:  “A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.”

3.      The longest time period without the addition of new wilderness began in 2009 and ended on March 4, 2014 with the designation of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Michigan.

4.      Steward Brandborg is one of the last surviving witnesses to the creation and passing of the Wilderness Act into law. Read a recent interview with Brandborg here.

5.      There are currently two dozen wilderness bills, totaling two million acres, stalled in Congress.

6.      109.5 million acres in 44 states have been designated as wilderness since the Wilderness Act was signed in 1964.

7.      5% of the land in the United States is currently designated as wilderness.

8.      Find a wilderness area near you using this interactive map.

9.      The Omnibus Public Land Management Act passed in 2009, and included 160 wilderness bills rolled into one piece of legislation, allowing the designation of 2 million acres of wilderness in nine states.

10.   Howard Zahniser, the primary author of the Wilderness Act, died of a heart attack two weeks before it was signed into law. Learn more about Zahniser in this extensive biography posted yesterday by the Wilderness Society.