The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Kerecman (202/429-2608)

Wilderness Act Celebrates 45th Anniversary, Sept. 3, 2009


September 3, marks the 45th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act, landmark
conservation legislation that allows citizens to work with Congress to protect America's
public land as wilderness.

When the Wilderness Act was signed into
law on September 3, 1964, it immediately protected nine million acres,
including such wild icons as the Gila Wilderness in New
Mexico, the Bob Marshall in Montana,
and the John Muir Wilderness in California.
Since that time, more than a hundred million additional acres of protected land
have been added to the National Wilderness Preservation System. Still, just 2.5
percent of the land in the lower 48 states is formally preserved as wilderness,
and much of the rest of our public lands remain open to development and
extractive uses.

"The U.S. has lost much of its forests,
farmlands, deserts, and other special areas to development and extractive uses over
the past 45 years, but there remain wild and wonderful places that are
unspoiled and unprotected," said William H. Meadows, president of The
Wilderness Society. "Protecting these places as wilderness ensures that
we'll have healthy air, clean water, places to hunt and to fish, habitat
for wildlife, and great places to visit with our family and friends."

to The Wilderness Society, near-term priority areas for wilderness protection
include Idaho's Boulder White Clouds, New Mexico's El Rio Grande Del Norte, California's San Gabriel
Mountains, Colorado's San Juan Mountains, Washington's
Alpine Lakes and Maine's Coastal Islands.

"Last March, Congress protected
more than 2 million acres of wilderness," said Meadows. "Health
care and the economy might be dominating national headlines, but preserving
treasured natural places for our children and grandchildren can also stand as a
lasting legacy for this Congress. These places have long been a vital element
of our national character and their protection has become increasingly
important to local economies."


Note: To celebrate
the 45th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, the Wilderness Society held
a Wild45 photo contest. The 45 winning
photos can be seen later today at:

Since 1935, The Wilderness Society has led the conservation movement in wilderness protection, writing and passing the landmark Wilderness Act and winning lasting protection for 107 million acres of Wilderness, including 56 million acres of spectacular lands in Alaska, eight million acres of fragile desert lands in California and millions more throughout the nation.