Celebrating 54 Years of the Wilderness Act

A lot can happen in 54 years: phones transition from the size of a bread box to the size of a baby’s palm, life can be passed on to another human generation, eight Fido generations, four ungulate generations, and a blue spruce lives one-quarter of its life.  In 54 years, formal conservation of wildlands can garner the bipartisan support to turn 9 million acres into 109 million acres and require land managers across the nation to preserve the character of wild places; a system of public lands that now include 765 congressionally designated wilderness areas.

Untrammeled, undeveloped, natural, opportunities for solitude or primitive and unconfined recreation uniquely describe characteristics of wilderness.  This week marks the 54th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act, a poetic work of art, but also a land designation with unmatched regulatory consideration for the time.  The champions of the Wilderness Act, Howard Zahniser, Aldo Leopold, and Arthur Carhart tirelessly spent many years carefully writing this piece of legislation to protect America’s wildest of the wild landscapes.  The law finally came to fruition on September 3, 1964, creating the National Wilderness Preservation System.

The Gunnison Valley is blessed to be surrounded by 455,313 acres of lands included in the system, spanning across four wilderness areas, Fossil Ridge, Maroon Bells-Snowmass, the West Elk, and the Raggeds.  The value of these wilderness areas are recognized by a diverse group of users in the Gunnison Valley. Efforts made by the Gunnison Public Lands Initiative (GPLI) ensure that the value of our wilderness areas and other public lands withstand what the next 54 years have to offer.

Gunnison Wilderness is a public lands legacy.  This legacy will be on display as the 2018 National Wilderness Workshop travels to Gunnison, Colorado this October. The workshop convenes land managers, partner organizations, and public landowners to discuss the future of the National Wilderness Preservation System. If you happen to find yourself celebrating the 54th anniversary of the Wilderness Act this week; whether it is on a remote backcountry trail, appreciating the sublime views of the Valley, or just drinking clean water, think about coming to the Workshop to share your story and shape the future of wild places.

Peter Horgan

Lauren Atkinson

Tyler Lee

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From Crested Butte News