President Obama recently declared September to be National Wilderness Month, calling on Americans to “renew our pledge to build upon the legacy of our forebears.”
It’s a magnificent, if incomplete, legacy, one that has come to symbolize both democratic values and a rugged national character.
The Wilderness Act was signed into law 46 years ago last week by President Lyndon Johnson. That act preserved 9 million acres of wild and free country for future generations of Americans to treasure and explore. In the wake of last year’s passage of the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act, the nation’s wilderness inventory has reached 109 million acres.
Then as now, wilderness protection continues to be one of the few issues that has broad bipartisan appeal, although the breadth of support has narrowed recently among some conservatives. Many Americans might be surprised to learn that President Ronald Reagan signed more wilderness bills than any other president, Democratic or Republican.