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Wilderness Designated in Zion National Park

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Date: May 20, 2009
Contact: Ray O'Neil, 435-772-7823

On March 30, 2009, President Barack Obama signed into law the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 which designated 124,406 acres as wilderness within Zion National Park. The legislation also transferred ownership and management of over 640 acres of wilderness from the Bureau of Land Management to Zion National Park. These lands are located on the west slope of The Watchman and Johnson Mountain near the Town of Springdale.

In the 1970s the National Park Service (NPS) determined that certain lands within Zion had wilderness character. These lands were recommended for wilderness designation. It is NPS policy to manage such lands to maintain wilderness characteristics and take no action that would diminish the wilderness eligibility until Congress determines whether or not to designate these lands as wilderness. With the signing of the 2009 Omnibus Act these lands are now protected by law as designated wilderness.

The Wilderness Act, signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964, established a National Wilderness Preservation System where federal lands could be designated by Congress as wilderness areas. The reason for designating wilderness is explained in the act as follows: “In order to assure that an increasing population, accompanied by expanding settlement and growing mechanization, does not occupy and modify all areas within the United States and its possessions, leaving no lands designated for preservation and protection in their natural condition, it is hereby declared the policy of the Congress to secure for the American people of present and future generations the benefits of an enduring resource of wilderness.”

The Wilderness Act also states that these areas “shall be administered for the use and enjoyment of the American people in such a manner as will leave them unimpaired for future use and enjoyment as wilderness, and so as to provide for the protection of these areas, the preservation of their wilderness character.”

Zion Superintendent Jock Whitworth and park staff look forward to helping visitors foster an appreciation of what it means to experience this special resource.  Visitors to the Zion Wilderness can experience primitive and unconfined recreation and possibly for the first time in their lives experience solitude. As western writer Wallace Stegner wrote, “We simply need that wild country available to us, even if we never do more than drive to its edge and look in. For it can be a means of reassuring ourselves of our sanity as creatures, a part of the geography of hope.”

For more information on Zion Wilderness please contact Ray O’Neil at 435-772-7823.

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