August 30, 2014
Polly Angelakis, 808-572-4450
September 3, 2014 marks the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act. This legislation gave public lands their highest level of protection, where natural processes are to be protected forever and left unchanged for future generations.
Many national parks and other public lands have visitor centers, campgrounds, or other types of development for visitors’ use and enjoyment. The Wilderness Act ensured that there would always be areas of undeveloped public lands set aside to protect watersheds, diverse ecosystems, habitats, and biodiversity.
Today, over 106 million acres of federal lands are Wilderness; 44 million acres are in national parks. One champion of the Wilderness Act was Laurance Rockefeller, who was instrumental in local efforts to preserve the Kīpahulu District as part of Haleakalā National Park.
Over 80% of Haleakalā is Wilderness and provides critical habitat for endangered species like the Kiwikiu (Maui parrotbill), a species of sandalwood, and 6 species of geranium that are found only in the park.
Superintendent Natalie Gates noted: “Unlike the nēnē or silversword, which can be observed near developed areas of the park, some of these rare species are hard to see. All of these species are important nonetheless and depend on the Wilderness of Haleakalā for survival.”
She added: “In traditional Native Hawaiian context, there is no division between nature and culture. The concept of Wilderness as a place that must remain unspoiled is consistent with Native Hawaiian reverence for the aina.”
Special programs and activities will be held during the first week of September at all Haleakalā NP visitor centers to commemorate the Wilderness Act. For more information about Wilderness, please go to http://wilderness.nps.gov/faqnew.cfm. For information about Haleakalā NP, visit nps.gov/hale.