On this day 56 years ago, Congress established the Wilderness Act in 1964. Congress wanted to protect undeveloped and wild areas as an enduring resource for the American people. Today, this act protects 111 million acres of wilderness preserving more than 750 wilderness areas in states from Alaska to Florida.
This act created the National Wilderness Preservation System (NWPS) and immediately designated 54 areas into this system. Some of the first wilderness areas created included Bridger Wilderness in Wyoming, Ansel Adams Wilderness in California, and Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in Minnesota. Today, the National Park Service makes up about 56% of the land under NWPS with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, and Bureau of Land Management areas making up the rest.
Many benefits exist today from this land conservation including providing habitats for wildlife; clean air; clean drinking water; boosting local economies with tourism and recreation; and providing some really amazing places to escape and appreciate this great land here!
Go enjoy this anniversary and get out in the wilderness today!
Yesterday, the President signed the Great American Outdoors Act into law. This measure guarantees maximum annual funding for a federal program to acquire and preserve land for public use.
This will drastically improve access to trails and public lands to conserve the places we all love to hike and address the long overdue maintenance needs that have resulted in trail closures at our National Parks, Forests, Refuges, and other public lands.
Two examples of many high priority deferred maintenance projects include:
– The Grand Loop and entrance roads at Yellowstone National Park are inadequate for current visitor needs. More than half of the park’s $586 million maintenance backlog is needed for long-overdue road repairs.
– The aging buildings at Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park in Georgia have $12 million in maintenance needs, including repair work at the Ebenezer Baptist Church where the late civil rights leader preached and where his funeral was held.
Two examples of many high priority conservation needs include:
– 470 acres of scenic, culturally significant lands at Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska, including two parcels sacred to the Huna Tlingit people and one island parcel surrounded by marine wilderness with potential for camping, fishing, wildlife watching and other recreational pursuits.
– 153 acres at Big South Fork National Recreation Area in Kentucky and Tennessee that represent the most threatened tracts of land within the park. These lands provide refuge for a variety of threatened and endangered species and are especially vulnerable to development if not acquired through the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
This new law will definitely help our public lands here!