Yesterday marked the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, which was passed into law on September 3, 1964 and all around the country, communities are hosting a wide variety of celebrations. You can check out what’s happening in your neck of the woods here.
The Wilderness Act, signed by President Lyndon Johnson, formally defines “wilderness” as:
“an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain. An area of wilderness is further defined to mean in this Act an area of undeveloped Federal land retaining its primeval character and influence, without permanent improvements or human habitation, which is protected and managed so as to preserve its natural conditions and which (1) generally appears to have been affected primarily by the forces of nature, with the imprint of man’s work substantially unnoticeable; (2) has outstanding opportunities for solitude or a primitive and unconfined type of recreation; (3) has at least five thousand acres of land or is of sufficient size as to make practicable its preservation and use in an unimpaired condition; and (4) may also contain ecological, geological, or other features of scientific, educational, scenic, or historical value.“
The Act initially set aside 9.1 million acres of land as Wilderness Areas where human activity is limited to preserve the natural character of the land. Today, the National Wilderness Preservation System includes 757 Wilderness Areas comprised of over 100 million acres. Most states have designated wilderness areas, excluding Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, and Rhode Island, with the majority of those areas focused in the west.
Colorado has a pretty good chunk of wilderness with 43 Wilderness Areas totaling over 3 million acres of wild lands. Those lands are managed by some combination of the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Forest Service, or the Fish and Wildlife Service. With so many wild areas to choose from, there’s sure to be one that strikes your fancy. So to celebrate this landmark anniversary in style, why don’t you take a hike…to a Wilderness Area near you?