The 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act

This summer marks the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Wilderness Act, which defined "wilderness" in legal terms and designated protected areas in the United States. Signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson, the law currently protects over 100 million acres of land.

The law states that, "A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized 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." Protected areas are federally owned lands, including national parks, that are specially designated as wilderness. Areas of wilderness are unique in that vehicles, including bicycles, are prohibited within them. However, non-invasive outdoor recreation and scientific research are allowed. Overall, areas of wilderness have some of the strictest laws protecting them from human interference.

Protecting areas of wilderness is becoming critically important as endemic species, natural ecosystems, and our sources of water are threatened by pollution and habitat destruction caused by humans. Though the 100 million acres of land protected by the Wilderness Act may seem sizeable, it comprises only 5% of the total area of the United States.

Learn about nationally protected areas in the U.S. with our National Parks collection, Managing the Everglades Ecosystem lesson, Great Rivers 1, 2, and 3 lessons, and Wildfire Simulator tool. Our wildlife resources include the National Wildlife Week collectionYellowstone Wolves lesson, Where in the Wild? lesson, My Life As An Elk tool, and Why Garden For Wildlife? video.

Image credit: Clipart.com


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