Streams

Keeping the Wilderness Wild

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Rocky Mountain Front Proposed Wilderness. Day breaks on the Front Range in Montana. The mountains and plains in this region shelter a rich collection of plants and wildlife, including grizzly bears. Rocky Mountain Front Proposed Wilderness. Day breaks on the Front Range in Montana. The mountains and plains in this region shelter a rich collection of plants and wildlife, including grizzly bears. (© Michael Melford/National Geographic. From the September 2014 issue./National Geographic)

Fifty years ago President Johnson signed the federal Wilderness Protection Act to preserve a “glimpse of the world as it was in the beginning.”  New Yorker staff writer Elizabeth Kolbert talks about its creation and whether it has met its objectives to protect the country’s most pristine wildlands for future generations. She’s written the article “50 Years of Wilderness,” in the September issue of National Geographic magazine.

New Mexico’s Gila National Forest national geographic

Gila Wilderness. This was the precursor: Forty years before the Wilderness Act, 755,000 acres in New Mexico’s Gila National Forest, including the Middle Fork of the Gila River, became the world’s first designated wilderness. From the September 2014 issue of National Geographic. © Michael Melford/National Geographic.

 San Juan Islands, Washington

San Juan Islands. Patos Island, Washington, is part of a thousand-acre national monument created last year by President Barack Obama. Wilderness, a higher form of land protection, covers 350 acres of the San Juans—but only Congress can designate a wilderness. From the September 2014 issue of National Geographic. © Michael Melford/National Geographic.

 

Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument
Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument. Soaptree yuccas soak up morning light in southern New Mexico. Soaptree yuccas soak up morning light in southern New Mexico. “I am not finished,” the president said in May, as he created this newest national monument. “I’m searching for more opportunities.” From the September 2014 issue of National Geographic. © Michael Melford/National Geographic.

 

Rocky Mountain Front Proposed Wilderness. Day breaks on the Front Range in Montana. The mountains and plains in this region shelter a rich collection of plants and wildlife, including grizzly bears.
Rocky Mountain Front Proposed Wilderness. Day breaks on the Front Range in Montana. The mountains and plains in this region shelter a rich collection of plants and wildlife, including grizzly bears. From the September 2014 issue of National Geographic. © Michael Melford/National Geographic.
September 2014 National Geographic
September 2014 National Geographic
 

 

Guests:

Elizabeth Kolbert

Comments [3]

When people think of wilderness, they usually envision the great National Parks we have out west. Near urban centers where populations are becoming more and more detached from wilderness, there are many National Wildlife Refuges scattered about. One of these areas, the first signed in by congress after the Wilderness Act of 1964 was the Great Swamp NWR located less than thirty miles west of NYC. I'm currently working on a four person crew with the Student Conservation Association in the Great Swamp. We're preparing the park for a media event celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act and for their fall festival on September 6th. For the next three weeks, the crew and I will working to clear trails still blocked by debris from Hurricane Sandy. Since power tools are not allowed in the wilderness area, we have the unique pleasure of using a hundred year old crosscut saw to clear logs up to two feet in diameter. Since the passing of the Wilderness Act, more than 9 million acres of wild land has become protected and the Clean Air and Clean Water acts were passed. With a successful first fifty years following the Wilderness Act, it is our generation's duty to look forward and continue to maintain these refuges. This means urban twenty-something's such as myself stepping out of comfort zones and getting your hands dirty using antique crosscut saws!

Aug. 19 2014 01:23 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Is that "wilderness50th" or "wildernessfiftieth" (or was it 50 or fifty?)? Please post a link on this page.

Aug. 19 2014 12:38 PM
John

Speaking of swamps, the Great Swamp NWR, 26 miles from NYC, was one of the first wilderness areas. It too is celebrating its 50th anniversary. And it's beautiful.

Aug. 19 2014 12:30 PM

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