Today marks the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Wilderness Act, a piece of legislation that now protects more than 100 million acres of American land from development. In this guest post, James Morton Turner, author of The Promise of Wilderness: American Environmental Politics since 1964, contends that the Wilderness Act gave us much more than millions of acreage of wild lands–it gave us a political process that engaged citizens can use to protect and advocate for the conservation of other lands, both wild and public.
The map of the National Wilderness Preservation System is the legacy of five decades of wilderness advocacy. From the shifting sands of Passage Key in Florida to the mountain highlands of the La Garita Wilderness in Colorado to the vast expanses of the Wrangell-St. Elias in Alaska, one out of every twenty acres in the United States has been set aside in perpetuity as wilderness. Those areas are meant to be, as the Wilderness Act proclaimed, “an enduring resource for the American people.” Continue reading