Celebrating Wilderness

50 years ago today, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the Wilderness Act, the highest level of protection ever afforded the American landscape. This wilderness 50 logohistoric bill established the National Wilderness Preservation System (NWPS) and set aside an initial 9.1 million acres of wildlands for the use and benefit of the American people. Over the past 50 years, and as a result of America’s support for wilderness, Congress has added over 100 million acres to this unique land preservation system.  Today there are 757 Wilderness Areas, seven of them in Wisconsin:

  • Blackjack Springs Wilderness
  • Gaylord Nelson Wilderness
  • Headwaters Wilderness
  • Porcupine Lake Wilderness
  • Rainbow Lake Wilderness
  • Whisker Lake Wilderness
  • Wisconsin Islands Wilderness

Defined by The Act as areas where the earth and its communities of life are left unchanged by people, where the primary forces of nature are in control, and where people themselves are visitors who do not remain, these areas are an indispensable part of American history.

As Johnson later remarked, “If future generations are to remember us with gratitude rather than contempt, we must leave them something more than the miracles of technology. We must leave them a glimpse of the world as it was in the beginning.”

There are thousands of other observations about our relationship with nature that seem fitting to share today, but we’ll leave you with one of our favorites:

“The land belongs to the future … that’s the way it seems to me. How many names on the county clerk’s plat will be there in fifty years? I might as well try to will the sunset over there to my brother’s children. We come and go, but the land is always here. And the people who love it and understand it are the people who own it — for a little while.” – Willa Cather

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