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Protecting Wilderness Areas in the U.S.

The Moon rising over the valley in Yosemite National Park. Photo:US Deparment of the Interior, Manish Mamtani

September marks 50 years for landmark conservation bill.

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell joined U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe, Members of Congress and key partners on September 3rd in Basking Ridge, New Jersey at Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act and the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act.

Protecting Wilderness Areas in the U.S.
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Great Swamp was the first unit within the Interior Department to have wilderness designated. The refuge, like hundreds of other refuges, parks and public lands across the nation, has also acquired a significant portion of its acreage using funding provided by the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).

“September 3, 1964, when President Johnson signed the Wilderness Act and the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act, is one of the most important days in the history of conservation in this country,” said Secretary Jewell. “We have a moral obligation to future generations to build on this legacy by strengthening the National Wilderness Preservation System. . .”

Participants joined an Student Conservation Association (SCA) work crew to help clear a trail within the wilderness area damaged by Hurricane Sandy, using primitive hand tools to respect wilderness character. The crew has been on the refuge for three weeks working on trail maintenance and clearing.

“Fifty years after the Wilderness Act,” stated Student Conservation Association Regional Vice President Laura Herrin, “SCA and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are advancing that same spirit of stewardship by providing under-served youth with innovative service opportunities that bolster our wild lands and build conservation careers that will reach another fifty years into our future.”

Today, the National Wilderness Preservation System spans 110 million acres in 44 states, protecting spectacular places in their wild state, where humans are merely visitors. Within these areas, development, road construction and the use of all motorized vehicles and equipment is prohibited.

Over its 50-year history, the LWCF act has protected land in every state and supported over 41,000 state and local park projects. Land and Water Conservation Fund acquisitions protect watersheds and drinking water supplies, preserve our national heritage, and conserve natural areas and open space for wildlife and recreation – all while providing sustainable, domestic jobs in urban and rural communities across America.

The United States is working hard to protect its wilderness areas – an irreplaceable national treasure for all Americans.