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By Tania Soussan / For the Journal
UPDATED: Thursday, August 28, 2014 at 6:06 am
PUBLISHED: Thursday, August 28, 2014 at 12:05 am

New Mexico is going wild this fall as it becomes the nation’s hot spot for celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act.

From a five-day national conference in Albuquerque to an art show in Questa, a wide range of events are planned around the state to mark a half-century since President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the landmark legislation on Sept. 3, 1964, creating a system of land preservation that today includes almost 110 million acres around the country and about 1.6 million acres in New Mexico.

Even the Isotopes will get in on the fun with a Wilderness Day on Sept. 1.

“It’s really an opportunity to educate another generation or two about what wilderness is,” said Mark Allison, executive director of the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance, which is a co-host of the National Wilderness Conference.

Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., added that he and other conservation leaders also hope the anniversary celebrations will “elevate the conversations about those places.”

Karl Malcolm, regional wildlife ecologist for the U.S. Forest Service in the Southwest, added that he hopes the anniversary also will “highlight the increasing significance of these landscapes in a world where human pressures are mounting.”

The National Wilderness Conference will be held Oct. 15-19 at the Hyatt Regency Albuquerque and is being billed as the first national gathering of the wilderness community in 25 years. Keynote speakers include Heinrich, author Terry Tempest Williams and oceanographer Sylvia Earle, as well as a panel with federal agency directors.

With a $350 price tag and sessions geared to give participants tools to work on wilderness stewardship issues, the conference is geared more toward professionals and activists than the general public. There will be presentations, exhibits, field learning and skill development workshops.

A free Get Wild festival scheduled to run from 2 to 10 p.m. on Oct. 18 on Civic Plaza promises a family-friendly, fair-like setting with archery, horse packing and backcountry cooking demonstrations as well as a climbing wall, fishing ponds and an Aldo Leopold impersonator giving the history of wilderness. Children will enjoy a Wilderness Passport Scavenger hunt with prizes and campfire chautauquas (storytellers), while adults are more likely to go for the beer garden and live music by Chat Lunatique and other groups. In addition, an exhibition featuring dozens of groups at the Convention Center will be open to the public on the morning of Oct. 18.

The 10 th Annual Gila Ri ver Festival

will focus this year on celebrating America’s first wilderness river. The Gila Conservation Coalition event runs Sept. 18-21. Find more info at gilaconservation.org.

Walk f or W ilderness The Rio Grande Valley State Park Open Space will hold a three-mile walk from 10 a.m. to noon Sept. 27. Walkers of all ages will participate in a wilderness quiz and learn Leave No Trace ethics through trail-side demonstrations.

Wilderness Thinkers in Residence Project

The nonprofit LEAP arts project will kick off a new program during the NeoRio celebration Sept. 6 at the Bear Crossing Overlook in the new Rio Grande del Norte National Monument. An artists’ lecture by Team Biocultura will begin at 2 p.m. followed by a 6 p.m. celebration on the rim of the gorge with music and food. Look up leapsite.org for more info.

Wildern ess Day at Isotop es Park

Labor Day also will be a celebration of wilderness from 1 to 5 p.m. at Isotopes Park with images of all 25 of New Mexico’s wilderness areas shown on the big screen right before the 1:35 p.m. game time. A U.S. Forest Service employee will sing the national anthem and a display on the concourse will mark the anniversary. There’s even talk of a “Wilderness Wave.”

The P eople’s Wilderness Film G ala

New Mexico is going wild this fall as it becomes the nation’s hot spot for celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act.

From a five-day national conference in Albuquerque to an art show in Questa, a wide range of events are planned around the state to mark a half-century since President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the landmark legislation on Sept. 3, 1964, creating a system of land preservation that today includes almost 110 million acres around the country and about 1.6 million acres in New Mexico.

Even the Isotopes will get in on the fun with a Wilderness Day on Sept. 1.

“It’s really an opportunity to educate another generation or two about what wilderness is,” said Mark Allison, executive director of the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance, which is a co-host of the National Wilderness Conference.

Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., added that he and other conservation leaders also hope the anniversary celebrations will “elevate the conversations about those places.”

Karl Malcolm, regional wildlife ecologist for the U.S. Forest Service in the Southwest, added that he hopes the anniversary also will “highlight the increasing significance of these landscapes in a world where human pressures are mounting.”

The National Wilderness Conference will be held Oct. 15-19 at the Hyatt Regency Albuquerque and is being billed as the first national gathering of the wilderness community in 25 years. Keynote speakers include Heinrich, author Terry Tempest Williams and oceanographer Sylvia Earle, as well as a panel with federal agency directors.

With a $350 price tag and sessions geared to give participants tools to work on wilderness stewardship issues, the conference is geared more toward professionals and activists than the general public. There will be presentations, exhibits, field learning and skill development workshops.

A free Get Wild festival scheduled to run from 2 to 10 p.m. on Oct. 18 on Civic Plaza promises a family-friendly, fair-like setting with archery, horse packing and backcountry cooking demonstrations as well as a climbing wall, fishing ponds and an Aldo Leopold impersonator giving the history of wilderness. Children will enjoy a Wilderness Passport Scavenger hunt with prizes and campfire chautauquas (storytellers), while adults are more likely to go for the beer garden and live music by Chat Lunatique and other groups. In addition, an exhibition featuring dozens of groups at the Convention Center will be open to the public on the morning of Oct. 18.

Here’s a rundown of other wilderness anniversary events:

⋄ Wilderness Day at Isotopes Park — Labor Day also will be a celebration of wilderness from 1 to 5 p.m. at Isotopes Park with images of all 25 of New Mexico’s wilderness areas shown on the big screen right before the 1:35 p.m. game time. A U.S. Forest Service employee will sing the national anthem and a display on the concourse will mark the anniversary. There’s even talk of a “Wilderness Wave.”

⋄ Walk for Wilderness — The Rio Grande Valley State Park Open Space will hold a three-mile walk from 10 a.m. to noon Sept. 27. Walkers of all ages will participate in a wilderness quiz and learn Leave No Trace ethics through trail-side demonstrations.

⋄ The People’s Wilderness Film Gala — Both new and old films will be screened Oct. 14 and 19 at the KiMo Theater in Downtown Albuquerque. The films will include sweeping vistas and stories of wild lands, peoples’ experiences of them and the problems facing wilderness protection.

Here’s a rundown of other wilderness anniversary events:

Both new and old films will be screened Oct. 14 and 19 at the KiMo Theater in Downtown Albuquerque. The films will include sweeping vistas and stories of wild lands, peoples’ experiences of them and the problems facing wilderness protection.

⋄ Wilderness Thinkers in Residence Project — The nonprofit LEAP arts project will kick off a new program during the NeoRio celebration Sept. 6 at the Bear Crossing Overlook in the new Rio Grande del Norte National Monument. An artists’ lecture by Team Biocultura will begin at 2 p.m. followed by a 6 p.m. celebration on the rim of the gorge with music and food. Look up leapsite.org for more info.

⋄ The 10th Annual Gila River Festival will focus this year on celebrating America’s first wilderness river. The Gila Conservation Coalition event runs Sept. 18-21. Find more info at gilaconservation.org

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