2016 was a watershed year for The Wilderness Society and for the conservation movement. From protecting irreplaceable landscapes to promoting smart renewable energy development, to increasing opportunities for all Americans to experience and enjoy our public lands, we achieved some of our most meaningful and significant victories to date.
Over the past eight years, 29 new national monuments were created—and 2016 alone gave us three of the largest and most meaningful land protection stories in the history of the United States, with new national monuments protecting the Bears Ears region of Utah, the Katahdin Woods and Waters in Maine and 1.8 million acres in the California desert. Any one of these victories would be cause for celebration; securing all three in the same year makes 2016 one of the most successful in our history.
In addition to these landmark new monuments, we made public lands part of the climate solution by finalizing rules and regulations to reduce emissions from public lands, and by enacting plans that encourage clean energy development in the right places. Today, we are working vigorously to defend these and other energy reforms.
Finally, we helped people access their public lands more than ever before with new recreation initiatives, new policies that expand access to the outdoors, as well as the great success of the federal Every Kid in a Park program, which provides free park access for every fourth-grader in America. 2016 saw the launch of our national “Our Wild” campaign to mobilize the broad and vocal support our public lands need for the fight ahead.
In 2017, we now face empowered anti-conservationists in Congress and a new presidential administration, vowing to reverse the progress we worked hard to make possible. Our work on behalf of the nation’s lands and waters has never been more important. We’re ready to dig deep in the years ahead, working with the new administration wherever possible but also fully prepared to defend against threats as they are presented.
The Wilderness Society has provided leadership at defining moments in our nation’s conservation history. throughout the 1950's we led the effort to enact what became the Wilderness Act in 1964. In the 1980's, we successfully fought a federal effort to privatize our public lands. In the 1990's, we protected the remaining old- growth forests and roadless areas. In the early 2000's, our advocacy put an end to repeated attempts to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling. Every step of the way, the Wilderness Society has been on the front lines: framing the debate to find common ground on high-profile issues, mobilizing grassroots support and collaborating with others to build the strong defense necessary to win.
Building a movement to protect our public lands is a long-term endeavor. It’s even more important in the times when our values are most challenged. Our public lands need our help to survive. They belong to all of us—and it will take every one of us stepping up and doing more than ever before to protect them.
We can’t thank you, our supporters, enough for being part of this movement.