wilderness act


10 Reasons The Wilderness Act Was One Of The Best Ideas Ever

The Wilderness Act turns 50 this week, marking the anniversary of the preservation of some of our most treasured national lands. Passed in 1964, the Wilderness Act established the National Wilderness Preservation System and created the first official wilderness areas.

For more striking photos and inspiring quotes about nature go here. 


#bornwild: BLM’s National Conservation Lands

Fifty years ago today, the Wilderness Act was signed, making the United States the first country in the world to define and designate wilderness areas through law. Today, the Bureau of Land Management manages wilderness as a part of its mission under the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, through our National Conservation Lands.

In 1983, Congress designated the BLM’s first wilderness: the Bear Trap Canyon Wilderness unit of the Lee Metcalf Wilderness in Montana. Since then, Congress has designated 221 BLM Wilderness areas encompassing 8.7 million acres, including the 1994 passage of the California Desert Protection Act which created 69 wilderness areas in California. Another 528 WSAs remain, totaling 12.7 million acres. 

The BLM’s management of diverse wilderness includes offshore rocks, deserts, canyons and alpine tundra. And because the BLM manages the most public land of any Federal agency, wilderness designations can be massive. For example, the BLM’s largest wilderness is Nevada’s 315,000-acre Black Rock Desert Wilderness. Along the California coast, the King Range Wilderness has the longest coastal wilderness trail network in the country, more than 100 miles. These lands offer clean water; starry skies; pristine wildlife habitat; and open vistas that the public and BLM employees treasure.  

Follow along all month as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act!  And check out more beautiful wilderness photos in the #wilderness50 set on our My Public Lands Flickr: http://bit.ly/blmwilderness50


In order to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History has opened “Wilderness Forever: 50 Years of Protecting America’s Wild Places,” a photography exhibition that features juried selections from over 5,000 entries. The show, which shows a rarely seen wild, untouched, and free” America, will be on display through summer 2015.

#Wilderness50!  The Gila Wilderness:

Trail of the Mountain Spirits Scenic Byway - Riding Beneath Cliffs in the Gila Wilderness

Packing along the Gila River, the traveler pauses to sense the quiet on this riverside campground below jagged tan cliffs.

Location: New Mexico (33.183° N 108.207° W)
Status: Public domain. Photo by Joe Burgess

The Gila Wilderness of New Mexico - the first wilderness area to be protected under the Wilderness Act and just one of the many images of wilderness areas to be found in National Archives holdings

(Submitted by usnatarchives!)

Share your favorite wilderness with the #Wilderness50 tag!

The 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act

Today in 1964, LBJ signed the Wilderness Act, protecting more than 9 million acres of land.

In his signing speech the President praised the bipartisan work in getting the bill passed: 

“I think it is significant that these steps have broad support not just from the Democratic Party, but the Republican Party, both parties in the Congress. For example, the wilderness bill has been before the Congress since 1957, but it passed this year 73 to 12 in the Senate, and 373 to 1 in the House. So it seems to me that this reflects a new and a strong national consensus to look ahead, and, more than that, to plan ahead; better still, to move ahead.”

Attendees at the ceremony included some of those Congressional leaders, and many leaders of nonprofit groups who had worked alongside them. LBJ signed the bill outdoors, in the Rose Garden–naturally!

-from the LBJ Library

Conservationists and wilderness enthusiasts across America are mobilizing to defeat a bill passed by the House of Representatives in April that would eviscerate the 1964 Wilderness Act.

Deceptively entitled the Sportsmen’s Heritage Act, the bill (H.R. 4089) purports to protect hunting, fishing, and recreational shooting. The bill is being pushed by powerful groups like the National Rifle Association and Safari Club International and supported by some of the most anti-wilderness Republicans in Congress. And it would effectively gut the Wilderness Act and protections for every wilderness in America’s 110-million-acre National Wilderness Preservation System – everywhere from the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in Minnesota to the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness along the Montana-Idaho border that I can see from my home.


First, H.R. 4089 elevates hunting, fishing, shooting, and wildlife management above wilderness protection within designated wilderness areas. Visitors or wildlife managers could drive motor vehicles and build roads, cabins, dams, hunting blinds, aircraft landing strips, and much more in wildernesses if any of these activities could be rationalized as facilitating opportunities for hunting, fishing, shooting, or managing fish and wildlife.

The only limitation in H.R. 4089 on motor vehicles or development is that the activity must be related to hunting, fishing, shooting, or wildlife management, though that need not be its only or even primary use. In reality, almost any recreational or management activity could be shoehorned into one of these exceptions and thereby exempted from Wilderness Act safeguards.

Perhaps even more troubling, H.R. 4089 would waive protections imposed by the Wilderness Act for anything undertaken in the name of wildlife management or for providing recreational opportunities related to wildlife. This would allow endless manipulations of wildlife and habitat.

This could include logging, if done to stimulate new forest growth on which deer might graze. Similarly, bulldozing new dams and reservoirs could be validated as a way to enhance fishing habitats. Poisoning lakes and streams to kill native fish and then planting exotic fish might be allowed under the guise of increasing fishing opportunities. And predator control (including aerial gunning and poisoning) could be defended for boosting the numbers of popular hunted species like elk or bighorn sheep that predators also eat.

There is no limit to what managers could do in designated wilderness areas all in the name of wildlife management or providing opportunities for recreational hunting, fishing, and shooting. These provisions strike at the heart of the Wilderness Act and its foundational underpinnings to preserve wilderness untrammeled and native wildlife in its natural environment.


For nearly a half-century, the Wilderness Act has protected the finest of America’s wild lands and created a National Wilderness Preservation System that is the envy of much of the world. H.R. 4089 would negate all that we have preserved. In my 60 years of work for wilderness preservation and management, our nation has never been threatened by a more serious attack on this irreplaceable publicly owned resource. Citizens must demand that the US Senate do nothing to advance the House provisions of the so-called Sportsmen’s Heritage Act and instead protect our grand wilderness legacy for future generations.

Well, this pisses me off.  They will not be satisfied until they destroy everything beautiful.   It is already nearly impossible to find a quiet place to camp without ATMs roaring up and down roads.


Nine BLM Wilderness Areas Make Wilderness Society’s “15 of America’s Most Photogenic Wilderness Areas”

This year, the Bureau of Land Management and other land management agencies, non-government partners and the American public celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act.  For this anniversary, the Wilderness Society has been featuring beautiful wilderness areas across the United States.  Their latest feature, “15 of America’s Most Photogenic Wilderness Areas,” include nine BLM-managed wilderness areas, all a part of the BLM’s beautiful National Conservation Lands

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.
—  Lyndon B. Johnson, who signed the Wilderness Act into law on Sept. 3, 1964.


“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.”

An Act to Establish a National Wilderness Preservation System, 09/03/1964

Signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson fifty years ago, the Wilderness Act established the National Wilderness Preservation System and protected an initial 9.1 million aces of Federal land.  It now protects over 100 million acres of wilderness in 44 states.  Read more at the Lyndon B. Johnson Library.

Be sure to follow our colleagues at mypubliclands as they celebrate #Wilderness50!  

Plus - share an image of your favorite wilderness area with the #Wilderness50 tag.  If it's from the National Archives, tag us ( todaysdocument) and we’ll try to reblog it!

Where is your favorite wilderness?

If future generations are to remember us with gratitude rather than contempt, we must leave them a glimpse of the world as it was in the beginning, not just after we got through with it.
—  President Lyndon Baines Johnson, signing the Wilderness Act of 1964 into law

Red Mountain Wilderness 

Wilderness is a place of untouched beauty, where its organic community is naturally interwoven, and its heart beat is untrammeled by man. Red Mountain Wilderness is about 18,700 acres, with a portion in the Red Cliffs National Conservation Area. Parts of Snow Canyon State Park wrap around its southern and eastern boundaries. This photo shows a portion of the Wilderness that is made up of immense sandstone mounds, with endless outlooks on the flat expanses below, and the Beaver Dam Mountains in the distance.
In 1964, Congress established the National Wilderness Preservation System and designated the first Wilderness Areas after passing the Wilderness Act. The uniquely American idea of wilderness has become an increasingly significant tool to ensure long-term protection of natural landscapes. Sprawled over about 8.7 million acres in 10 Western States, there are ample Wilderness Areas for you to explore, each with a very unique character.
Photo by: Melissa Buchmann; Story by: Iris Picat

#Wilderness50: Shining Rock Wilderness

Forest Heritage National Scenic Byway - Shining Rock Wilderness

“From a rocky vista, the view opens to horizon of pine forests with mountainscapes lining the backdrop. This vast landscape is Shining Rock Wilderness, one of the first wilderness areas to be established with the passage of the 1964 Wilderness Act.”

Location: Shining Rock Wilderness, North Carolina (35.378° N 82.815° W) Status: Public domain. 

From the series: Digital Photographs Relating to America’s Byways, ca. 1995 - ca. 2013

The Shining Rock Wilderness of North Carolina - one of the first areas to be protected under the Wilderness Act and just one of the many images of wilderness areas to be found in National Archives holdings.

Share your favorite wilderness with the #Wilderness50 tag!

#Wilderness Act turns 50

On this date, September 3rd, 1964, US President Lyndon Johnson signed a bill into law known as the Wilderness Act.

The Wilderness Act created a new standard by which a portion of the public lands of the U.S. would be managed. A variety of agencies manage the public lands, including the Park Service, the Forest Service, and the BLM. At the time, many had conservation goals considered in how they managed land, but there was no clear statement of how to manage land for the purposes of minimizing human involvement.

The text of the law defined wilderness succinctly by stating “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.”

The Wilderness Act thus created procedures where areas within America’s Public Lands could be managed with a goal of limiting the influence of man.

Today about 5% of the area in the United States, 429,000 square kilometers have been set-aside as Wilderness Areas under this designation. In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Act, the Smithsonian is running a photography contest and later this fall there will be a meeting of groups dedicated to dealing with challenges associated with Wilderness areas. More information can be found below. This image was one of many submitted to the photo contest and it captures a nighttime Aurora in Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, a designated Wilderness area.



Image credit: Smithsonian/Jeff Rennicke

Read more:





Congress is considering a law that would open protected wilderness areas up to use by recreational vehicles (ugh). If you’ve ever tried to hike near an ATV track, you know what a horrible havoc this makes of a pristine environment. Imagine the Three Sisters Wilderness with ATVs and hunting allowed…actually, no, don’t imagine it. We don’t want to help it happen, a la The Secret. But you can help it not happen! Click on the link above and write to your congresspeople!