Ansel Adams Wilderness (California).
Credit: Steve Dunleavy, flickr.
Closing out Wilderness Week in style, the upper house of Congress passed a resolution spearheaded by Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR), Mark Udall (D-CO) and Jeff Sessions (R-AL) that expresses gratitude for wilderness as “a tremendous asset the United States continues to preserve as a gift to future generations,” and venerates the half-century-old law that made its ongoing protection possible. A similar resolution was introduced in the House, led by Reps. Chris Gibson (R-NY) and Rush Holt (D-NJ), and drew strong support from both sides of the aisle.
“Protecting wilderness has never been a partisan issue,” said Jamie Williams, president of The Wilderness Society. “The Wilderness Act passed by a huge bipartisan margin before President Lyndon Johnson signed it into law in 1964, and congressional members and presidents of both political stripes have sponsored and passed wilderness bills through the years. We are encouraged to see continuing bipartisan support celebrating 50 years of protecting our American legacy.”
“For 50 years, America has set aside places under the strongest level of protection so they remain wild for generations to appreciate and enjoy, while also working with diverse stakeholders to address local issues,” Sen. Wyden said in a statement. Sen. Sessions added, “We are grateful for those who fought for to preserve this natural legacy, and are resolved in our commitment to maintain this heritage for the next generation.”
Recent years have seen Congress locked in a seemingly endless cycle of partisan disagreement, all too often failing to act in the name of conservation despite public support. Indeed, more than two dozen locally-supported wilderness bills have been introduced and are awaiting action by lawmakers.
Hopefully, bipartisan recognition of the Wilderness Act heralds a new era of cooperation. Upon signing that law in 1964, President Lyndon Johnson made special note of the fact that conservation measures had been supported broadly by both Democrats and Republicans. Now, as then, Americans value wild places and want them protected. The Wilderness Society will work to ensure that Congress follows suit.
Watch clips of Sens. Wyden, Udall and Martin Heinrich (D-NM) recognizing the Wilderness Act on the Senate floor during Wilderness Week: