Since the Wilderness Act passed in 1964, Congress has designated nearly 110 million acres of federal wildlands as official wilderness. Official wilderness has the highest form of protection of any federal wildland.
Wilderness protection comes in many shapes and sizes — from designating new wilderness and national monuments to making sure our national forests are well managed and there are adequate trails for recreation.
With passage of the Wilderness Act of 1964 (P.L. 88-577; 16 USC 1131-1136), the United States charted a course new in the history of nations — to preserve some of the country's last remaining wild places in order to protect their natural processes and values from development. Today, thanks to the wisdom, foresight, and perseverance of many dedicated individuals, current and future generations will enjoy an enduring wilderness — in reality and in spirit.
The Senate has plenty of high-profile issues to keep it busy in its lame duck session. But lawmakers should take time to pass a proposal that would protect more than 2 million acres of federal lands as wilderness, including 30,000 acres in the Oregon Coast Range known as the Devil’s Staircase.
As I pack my bags for a rafting trip through Idaho’s wilderness, I am reminded of the benefits that all of us enjoy thanks to the Wilderness Act, which celebrates another birthday this month.
Sept. 3 marks the 46th anniversary of the day President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Wilderness Act into law in 1964. The act created the National Wilderness Preservation System and immediately protected 9.1 million acres of special public lands by making them part of this system.