* Join Our Wilderness Celebration Team!

Be a part of our 2014 Celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act! Join our Wilderness Celebration Team! Contact Central Piedmont Outings Chair Tim Slape for more information.

Sierra Club 50 Wilderness

Sierra Club Outings celebrate the 50th anniversary of Wilderness

On September 3, 1964 President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the Wilderness Act.  This historic bill established the National Wilderness Preservation System (NWPS) and set aside an initial 9.1 million acres of wild lands for the use and benefit of the American people.

The Wilderness Act will turn 50 on September 3, 2014, and Sierra Club, other wilderness groups, and the four federal wilderness managing agencies are organizing for a whole year’s worth of celebrations around the country to mark this major American cultural and environmental achievement–and to educate a broader public about the concept and benefits of wilderness.

The 1964 Wilderness Act defines “Wilderness” as areas where “the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man,” with untrammeled meaning left wild and free from human control or manipulation. Wilderness designation provides the strongest and most permanent protection that our laws offer for Wilderness values such as adventure, solitude, clean air and water, scenery, wildlife, and scientific understanding of how the natural world works when left alone. Wilderness areas include wild places in national parks, national forests, wildlife refuges, and western lands of the Bureau of Land Management.

The Wilderness Act declared it to be the policy of our nation to “to secure for the American people of present and future generations the benefits of an enduring resource of wilderness” and established our National Wilderness Preservation System. The initial 9.1 million acres set aside in 1964 –in 54 national forest areas in 13 states — have now grown to more than 100 million acres nationwide with 757 areas totaling about 109 million acres in 44 states.  Only Congress can designate wilderness—by law – and it was the voices of Americans that convinced Congress over the past 50 years to pass laws preserving many more lands as wilderness — with more to come. Sierra Club volunteers, and staff have been prominent in virtually all wilderness campaign over the years, and our outings program has helped acquaint many people with the values of wild lands deserving preservation.

While Sierra Club began long before the Wilderness Act was signed, the basic principles underlying the Act are also the founding principles of the Sierra Club. From the beginning, Club leaders and members organized to preserve special natural places from the impacts of human development.  And Sierra Club has played a big role in the national wilderness effort from the start.  From 1949 through 1975 the Sierra Club hosted a series of 14 biennial wilderness conferences to discuss and determine how best to respond to the urgently felt need for permanent, legislated preservation of wild places. The need became clear after World War II.  As Americans enjoyed new affluence and leisure, the agencies often bowed to the pressures of more demands for lumber and more places to recreate; administrative set asides for wild lands failed, and wilderness advocates realized that permanent, preservation by law was needed. The Club worked hard on getting the original 1964 bill passed and has been promoting preservation of wild places ever since.

The Sierra Club’s outings program has long been in the forefront of drawing attention to protected places and places that need to be saved from development. We take people out to the places that need advocates.  From John Muir on, we have known that people will speak up for the places they care about – and taking them there is a powerful way to get them to care. Sierra Club outings leaders and participants are among the most passionate supporters of keeping wild places reserved for nature. During 2014 all Sierra Club outings – whether national, international, Chapter or Group, will be part of our celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act by featuring a wilderness celebration theme. Our local outings around the country have the best potential to reach out to the public beyond our own members – especially by seeking to include young people and diverse communities.

Uniquely American, wilderness is a great social and environmental achievement in which our nation agrees to restrain in special wild places the normal trend toward development – so that nature can dominate here—forever.

For more information check back frequently on our 50 Years of Wilderness webpage. http://charlottesierraclub.org/outings/50-years-of-wilderness/

Be a part of our 2014 Celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act! Join our Wilderness Celebration Team! Contact Central Piedmont Outings Chair Tim Slape for more information.

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