2014 marks the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, signed into law by President Johnson on September 3rd, 1964. Wilderness Volunteers is planning a year long celebration of the Act, and is a sponsor of Wilderness 50th, a coalition of federal agencies, non-profit organizations, academic institutions, and other wilderness user groups whose purpose is to raise awareness of this important piece of legislation and the need for Wilderness. We’ll be blogging and tweeting about Wilderness weekly, and look forward to reading your comments about the role Wilderness plays in your life.

Frederick Law Olmsted

The Act was first drafted in 1949, but the idea to set aside special areas to protect them from the degradations of logging, mining, agriculture and development began with the beginnings of the environmental movement in the late 1800s. Frederick LawOlmstead pushed for protection of Yosemite Valley in 1864, and is widely held as first to advocate the idea of placing certain scenic natural areas under government protection. He is believed to be the start of the national conversation that got folks to start thinking about how quickly the US was being exploited. Around this same time, George P. Marsh publishes Man and Nature, warning citizens to stop the devastation of natural resources.


In 1867, a Kiowa Nation Chief, Satanta, recognized the effects of encroaching civilization and voiced opposition to construction of the Union Pacific Railroad at a council held at Fort Larned, Kansas. While Native Americans didn’t have much sway at the time and went on to suffer greatly at the hands of the new country, their plight was noticed by the fledgling environmental movement.

More on the history leading to the Wilderness Act next week.