Wilderness Act Turns 40

The following Fun Fact was originally published September 6, 2004.

With the passage of the Wilderness Act on September 3, 1964, the United States set in motion a worldwide concept that has helped protect some of the earth's last remnants of lands where the wonder and beauty of nature is paramount. The National Wilderness Preservation System was established to “… secure for the American people of present and future generations the benefits of an enduring resource of wilderness.”

Upon signing the Act, President Lyndon B. Johnson stated: “If future generations are to remember us with gratitude rather than contempt, we must leave them more than the miracles of technology. We must leave them a glimpse of the world as it was in the beginning, not just after we got through with it.”

Today there are over 106 million acres of designated Wilderness administered by the National Park Service, U. S. Forest Service, U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Land Management. The National Park Service administers 41.3 percent of all Wilderness acreages and over 53 percent of all NPS lands are designated Wilderness, with many more acres classified as suitable, proposed, recommended or potential Wilderness. Rocky Mountain National Park has 2,917 acres of Designated Wilderness and more than 240,000 acres of Recommended Wilderness.

To many, Wilderness is hard to understand. It is a bequest to the future. It maintains planet health through ecosystem preservation and species biodiversity. It ties us to our history and reminds us of how the vast wild lands of yesteryear shaped our nations culture. Wilderness is an area to research how natural systems function, interact, evolve and serve as benchmarks to assess impacts in other areas.

Wilderness is a place of discovery and enjoyment. Discover self-sufficiency, independence, spiritual values, and inspirations. Enjoy experiences of challenge, risk, physical and mental health and develop outdoor skills and ethics. Educationally, wilderness is an open book of our natural environment and human interaction.

Even if you never step foot in wilderness, it can surround and overwhelm you. Natural beauty protected by Wilderness inspires art, music and literature. Scenic values are immeasurable. A drive across Trail Ridge Road is the experience of a lifetime for many. Local economies prosper by helping others experience and enjoy wilderness. Wilderness, through clean air, water, and vast expanses of open space, enhances quality of life.

Henry David Thoreau wrote, "…in Wildness is preservation of the World." Wilderness is protected for, and is within, everyone. At some point, we need to give up trying to understand wilderness and give in to experiencing wilderness! So, whether you view from afar, walk within, write on paper, paint on canvas, dream at night, or think about wild places… take time to look around, discover and enjoy wilderness in your own special way. Only then will you truly understand the meaning of wilderness.

Last updated: March 31, 2012

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Mailing Address:

1000 US Hwy 36
Estes Park, CO 80517

Phone:

(970) 586-1206
Through winter, the Information Office is open 8:00 am–4:30 pm Mon–Fri. Recorded Trail Ridge Road status: (970) 586-1222.

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