Fifty years ago Wednesday the Wilderness Act was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson. The act gave a legal definition to the term “wilderness:”
A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.
Nine million acres of public land were initially designated as wilderness. The act is one of the most significant pieces of environmental legislation in American history, because it concerns land and water already designated as national park, forest, or wildlife refuge, and forever protects these wild areas from damage due to logging, grazing, mineral extraction, road-building, construction – or any human manipulation, good or bad. The act essentially says “Enjoy these places and life forms, but don’t alter them.” Keep Them Wild.
Last spring I touched on this anniversary in a couple blog posts (The Rain, the Trees, and Other Things and Edward Abbey: An Anarchist Who Fought the Good Fight). Not everybody is as ardent about conservation as I am. I’ll just offer some pertinent quotes from a few friends of American wilderness. Voices, more impassioned and eloquent than mine, that helped bring the Wilderness Act to fruition and are intent on making it work. Like Ed Abbey says, we need more voices like them.
“Nature is not a place to visit. It is home.”
– Gary Snyder
“We simply need that wild country available to us, even if we never do more than drive to its edge and look in. For it can be a means of reassuring ourselves of our sanity as creatures, a part of the geography of hope.”
– Wallace Stegner
“Without enough wilderness America will change. Democracy, with its myriad personalities and increasing sophistication, must be fibred and vitalized by regular contact with outdoor growths — animals, trees, sun warmth and free skies — or it will dwindle and pale.”
– Walt Whitman
“The world, we are told, was made especially for man – a presumption not supported by all the facts.”
– John Muir
“It is horrifying that we have to fight our own government to save the environment.”
– Ansel Adams
“Only within the moment of time represented by the present century has one species – man – acquired significant power to alter the nature of the world.”
– Rachel Carson
“There is a tendency at every important but difficult crossroad to pretend that it’s not really there.”
– Bill McKibben
“We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.”
– Aldo Leopold
“Defense of our resources is just as important as defense abroad. Otherwise, what is there to defend?”
– Robert Redford
“We humans are a funny species. We can’t look death in the eye, yet we accept the environmental degradation and poisoning that breeds cancer… Something isn’t working.”
– Walkin’ Jim Stoltz
“The idea of wilderness needs no defense. It only needs more defenders.”
– Edward Abbey
“Whether we and our politicians know it or not, Nature is party to all our deals and decisions, and she has more votes, a longer memory, and a sterner sense of justice than we do.”
– Wendell Berry
“There is just one hope for repulsing the tyrannical ambition of civilization to conquer every inch on the whole earth. That hope is the organization of spirited people who will fight for the freedom and preservation of the wilderness.”
– Bob Marshall
“Plans to protect air and water, wilderness and wildlife are, in fact, plans to protect man.”
– Stewart Udall
“All good things are wild and free.”
– Henry David Thoreau
“If future generations are to remember us with gratitude rather than contempt, we must leave them a glimpse of the world as it was in the beginning, not just after we got through with it.”
– Lyndon Johnson
HAPPY 50th ANNIVERSARY TO THE WILDERNESS ACT!
6 thoughts on “Forever Green: Voices for the Wilderness Act”
There is pleasure in the pathless woods, there is rapture in the lonely shore, there is society where none intrudes, by the deep sea, and music in its roar; I love not Man the less, but Nature more.
The smoothest words yet. Nice to have a poet from merry olde England chiming in…thanks Tad!
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Some amazing quotes.
Yes, they are…from some very fertile minds. Thanks for your comment and reblog!
Reblogged this on NavasolaNature and commented:
I am trying to remember the words of the Gerald Manley Hopkins poem in the last stanza. ‘What would the world be once bereft of wildness and wet, wildness and wet’