WASHINGTON - August 25 - Today The Wilderness Society is launching an online campaign to commemorate the Wilderness Acts 40th anniversary. The campaign website, http://www.40WildYears.org, encourages visitors to sign a petition urging Congress to pass Wilderness legislation this session. Visitors can also share their personal Wilderness experiences and favorite wild places. The stories will be compiled into a report that will be distributed to members of Congress and other policymakers to remind them that the Wilderness is more than just a political issue.
It's inexcusable for Congress to stand by idly and watch the destruction of our precious national resources that are under attack from logging, mining, drilling, and road building, said Wilderness Society President William H. Meadows. A Wilderness bill has passed in almost every congressional session since 1968. Sadly, this Congress has failed to designate a single acre of land as federally protected Wilderness. We can and should expect the same vision and foresight from this Congress as most of its predecessors.
Congress passed the Wilderness Act on September 3, 1964. The world had never seen legislation like it: a deliberate and visionary effort to protect from development vast areas of wild places, and to preserve them for the enjoyment of all Americans of every generation. Thanks to this landmark law, today more than 105 million acres of national forests, parks, wildlife refuges and western lands are designated as Wilderness.
Although there are currently 105 million acres of federally protected Wilderness, many uniquely beautiful wild places such as Utah's Redrocks Wilderness, the Arctic Coastal Plain, and beloved areas in Washington, West Virginia, Vermont, Virginia and Montana still desperately need permanent protection as Wilderness, added Meadows. Every day that goes by without Wilderness protection leaves these lands at risk.
One example is a stunning, wild Colorado landscape, the South Shale Ridge, which is part of a citizen-proposed Wilderness bill to protect Colorados Canyon Country. While this area is still awaiting congressional action, the Bush administrations Bureau of Land Management is moving swiftly to open the area for oil and gas drilling, which would make the area ineligible for Wilderness designation.
Besides the online campaign, the anniversary observances will feature thousands of citizens participating in events ranging from group hikes and canoe trips to conferences and other events. Information about these events also is available at http://www.40WildYears.org.