During the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, there's no better way to celebrate
than to give back to the special places this visionary law has helped to protect.
The 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act
Since the birth of our nation, America's character, history and way of life has been linked with our public lands and wilderness. These lands have shaped our country’s narrative, inspired the dreams of generations and help define who we are as a people.
From Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to Florida’s Everglades to California’s Mojave Desert, America’s public lands offer world-class recreation opportunities while protecting our air and water quality and providing a home for our nation’s wildlife.
In 1964, Americans made a big commitment to the preservation of their public lands by enacting the Wilderness Act. This landmark legislation gave Americans a tool to protect the country’s last best wild places for generations to come, free from development and open for all people to enjoy.
America's 21st Century Conservation Corps
As we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act in 2014, we are recommitting ourselves to fulfilling our responsibility to care for America’s magnificent public lands. Fortunately, we have a strong and vibrant community of conservation corps to help us meet this responsibility. The 21st Century Conservation Service Corps is a bold national effort to put thousands of America’s young people and veterans to work protecting, restoring and enhancing America’s great outdoors by:
- Protecting wildlife, public lands and waters by controlling invasive species, for example
- Enhancing recreation on public lands by maintaining trails, etc.
- Preserving historic structures
- Protecting communities and public lands from wildfire
- Educating people and communities about the importance of conservation
Currently, there are more than 100 conservation corps employing 26,000 corps members in every state and the District of Columbia. In 2011, these corps:
- restored or improved 5,739,259 acres of land across the country – an area larger than the state for New Jersey
- rebuilt 95,337 miles of trails, built 104,952 feet of boardwalks, bridges and walkways, planted over a million trees and created or maintained 883 community and neighborhood gardens
- provided over 13,000,000 hours of service while engaging community volunteers for an additional half million hours
- provided young people and veterans with meaningful employment and job skills and help to develop the next generation of conservation leaders
FIFTY for the 50th
As part of our celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, The Wilderness Society with the partnership of the 21CSC will complete 50 conservation projects in 50 wild places, engaging conservation corps across the country.
These projects (see below) will take place in well known designated Wilderness areas, and in areas that have yet to be designated, such as:
- Devil’s Backbone Trail in the Angeles National Forest of California
- Turkey Pen Gap Trail reroute (part of the Appalachian Trail) in the Big Laurel Branch proposed wilderness in Tennessee
- Whitefish Trail in the Flathead National Forest recommended wilderness in Montana
We are also acutely aware that for many Americans a connection with wild places starts close-to-home. With that in mind we’ve included a number of projects that will protect and restore lands in our backyards. Some of these include:
- Candlestick Point State Park Restoration in San Francisco, California
- The Bruneau River Overlook in southwest Idaho
- Bladensburg Waterfront Park, just outside of Washington D.C.
When completed, our FIFTY for the 50th projects will:
- restore, rebuild and create miles of trails
- clear acres of invasive species
- make acres of local green spaces more accessible for communities to explore and build a relationship with the natural world
- will have engaged cadres of young people and veterans who gave their sweat and hard work toward protecting America’s greatest treasures
America is fortunate to have an enduring legacy of wild places to enjoy. Conservations corps, federal land management agencies and conservation organizations like The Wilderness Society have developed great partnerships across the country to ensure these wild places are preserved and protected into the future. As we pause to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, we also look forward to the next 50 years of protecting wild places, connecting people to the outdoors and working together to restore and maintain these special landscapes.
You can read some of the stories of corps members work in the wild here.
FIFTY for 50th Projects and Participating Corps
Click on location of project to view flyer with more information
District of Columbia