The Wilderness Act turns 50 this week, marking the anniversary of the preservation of some of our most treasured national lands. Passed in 1964, the Wilderness Act established the National Wilderness Preservation System and created the first official wilderness areas.
Outings and events are being planned all across the country this week and beyond, and the Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History is showcasing a special photography exhibit, “Wilderness Forever: 50 Years of Protecting America’s Wild Places.”
To celebrate our nation’s wilderness areas, here are 10 reasons why we need wilderness areas.
1. “We need the tonic of wildness… At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature.” – Henry David Thoreau, author and naturalist.
Wine Lake, Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, Minnesota. (Photo: Brian Pittman/Flickr)
2. “Wilderness is a resource which can shrink but not grow… the creation of new wilderness in the full sense of the word is impossible.” – Aldo Leopold, author, ecologist and co-founder of The Wilderness Society
Alpine Lake trail in Sawtooth Wilderness, Idaho. (Photo: Miguel Vieira/Flickr)
LaBarge Creek from Boulder Canyon Trail, Superstition Wilderness, California. (Photo: Al_HikesAZ/Flickr)
6. “There is just one hope of repulsing the tyrannical ambition of civilization to conquer every niche on the whole earth. That hope is the organization of spirited people who will fight for the freedom of the wilderness.” – Bob Marshall, forester and co-founder of The Wilderness Society
Webb Lake Ranger Station, Scapegoat Wilderness, Montana. (Photo: fsnorthernregion/Flickr)
7. “Plans to protect air and water, wilderness and wildlife are in fact plans to protect man.” – Stewart Udall, politician and Secretary of the Interior, 1961-1969
8. “Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out going to the mountains is going home; that wilderness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life.” – John Muir, author and founder of the Sierra Club
Pioneer Basin, John Muir Wilderness, California. (Photo: Tom Hilton/Flickr)
9. “Wilderness is not only a condition of nature, but a state of mind and mood and heart.” – Ansel Adams, nature photographer and environmental advocate
Iceburg Lake, Ansel Adams Wilderness, California. (Photo: Ken-ichi Ueda/Flickr)