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What is the Wilderness Act?


Wilderness areas protect watersheds that provide drinking water to many cities and rural communities.

Wilderness serves as critical habitat for wildlife threatened by extinction. Wilderness helps filter and improve the quality of our air.

Wilderness areas maintain gene pools that help to protect biodiversity -- the "web of life," and provide natural laboratories for research.

Wilderness helps meet the nation's increasing demand for outdoor recreation: hiking, hunting, fishing, bird watching, canoeing, camping, and many other activities.

Wilderness is a haven from the pressures of our fast-paced, industrialized society, providing places where we can seek relief from the noise, haste, and crowds that too often confine us.

"Something will have gone out of us as a people if we ever let the remaining wilderness be destroyed"

~ Excerpt from The Wilderness Letter, Wallace Stegner, author and former Wilderness Society Governing Council member.

Wilderness offers people solitude, inspiration, natural quiet, a place to getaway. At the same time, designated wilderness protects biodiversity, the web of life.

Of 261 basic ecosystem types in the U.S., 157 of them are represented in the wilderness system. Without these large, complex areas of preserved landscape, species protection would be virtually impossible and our understanding of how natural systems work would be reduced to childish speculation.

The National Wilderness Preservation System was created on September 3, 1964, when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed The Wilderness Act -- eight years after the first wilderness bill was introduced by Senator Hubert H. Humphrey. The final bill passed the Senate, 73-12, on April 9, 1963, and the House of Representatives, 373-1, on July 30, 1964.

The original bill established 9.1 million acres of federally protected wilderness in national forests. The law did not increase the amount of land under federal control, nor did it mandate acquisition of additional lands.  Read the document here:

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