>>Associate Director Rose Chilcoat<<
On the one hand, President Obama designated September as National Wilderness Month; a time to celebrate our nation’s system of wild protected public lands that Congress has laboriously reviewed and designated per guidance and requirements of the Wilderness Act of 1964, which had overwhelming bi-partisan support. The United States was the first country in the world to take such protective action. This system of wilderness is a treasure that belongs to all Americans, now and in the future.
On the other hand, we have Republican members of Congress whose actions are threatening the future of more than 43 million acres of public land with the introduction of the Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act of 2011 (H.R. 1581). The wild lands included in this bill have been identified by the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service as having wilderness characteristics. Many have strong citizen and local government support for protection as designated wilderness; they simply are awaiting Congress’ careful consideration and action to include them in the National Wilderness System.
The Wilderness Act clearly defines wilderness as “an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled”, (free and unconstrained), “by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” It is “…undeveloped Federal land retaining its primeval character and influence, without permanent improvements or human habitation, which is protected and managed so as to preserve its natural conditions …”
Wilderness is this generation’s gift to future generations. It is one piece of the ecological puzzle to save our country from ever-expanding development and resource destruction. It provides important refuge and corridors for wildlife. It protects biological diversity. It is an economic driver to nearby rural communities. It is quiet in a world of near constant noise. It is a remnant of the wild natural beauty that our forefathers (and mothers) experienced. It is freedom from the demands and constraints of civilization. It is available to everyone who wants to experience it – young or old, fit or physically challenged. It provides solace or adventure. It is hope; spiritual; restorative.
Wilderness is rare. We can’t make more of it. We only have the power to choose to protect it or destroy it. It is the remaining untamed forests, swamps, tundra, deserts, mountain peaks and ocean shores. From an entire continent of “wilderness” that European settlers encountered, we have protected a mere 2.7 percent of the contiguous United States as wilderness.
Great Old Broads for Wilderness members, (who experienced lifetimes of loss of treasured wild places), encourage you to join in the celebration of National Wilderness Month. Tell your representatives and senators that you value wild places. Find your nearest wilderness area (wilderness.net) or other wild place and get your family into the wild. Go for a hike, go for a paddle, drop a line in the water, work up a sweat or simply chill. Take a walk on the wild side. You’ll be glad you did!