Blog

Celebrating 50 Years of the Wilderness Act

Today, environmentalists around the world celebrate the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Wilderness Act, which was authored and championed by our namesake, Howard Zahniser. Called a “legendary leader” and “savior of wild places,” Zahniser's vision for wilderness was one in which "in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, . . . [wilderness is] an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain." 

Passing unanimously in the Senate and with only one dissenting vote in the House, the Act defined wilderness in the U.S. and created a way for Americans to preserve wild spaces for future generations. It now protects more than 100 million acres in 750 wilderness areas nationwide.

Zahniser saw wilderness as a vital tool for building citizens, and believed that we as humans needed to enlarge the ethical boundaries of our community, to include the land, plant and animal life, and all its supporting interconnections. A true visionary, he remarked to an audience at the Sierra Club’s Wilderness Conference in 1961, “We are not fighting a rear-guard action; we are facing a frontier,” he said. “We are not fighting progress; we are making it.” 

In the next several months, the Zahniser Institute will offer multiple education and volunteer events in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. Find out more by emailing lacy@zahniserinstitute.org or checking back for event information.