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Anniversary of the Wilderness Act and Land and Water Conservation Bill

Featured Content September 3, 2019 - Signed 55 years ago

"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."

On September 3, 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Wilderness Act and the Land and Water Conservation Bill. The Wilderness Act permanently preserved nine million acres of North America and established a National Wilderness Preservation System. Via this system, certain Federally-owned areas were designated by Congress as "wilderness areas." The Act determined that these areas would be conserved "for the use and enjoyment of the American people." The Act goes on to say that "there shall be no commercial enterprise and no permanent road within any wilderness area designated by the Act" unless otherwise stated in the Act. It also noted that Federal land management agencies, such as the National Park Service (NPS), would manage wilderness areas and preserve wilderness character.

The Land and Water Conservation Bill established a land and water conservation fund to assist State and Federal agencies in meeting present and future outdoor recreation demands and needs of the American people.

Johnson's remarks (1964 Public Papers, p. 1033) about the Acts reflect the President's love for nature. He said, "This is a very happy and historic occasion for all those who love the great American outdoors, and that, needless to say, includes me."

In his remarks, he also thanks President Theodore Roosevelt for passing the Reclamation Act, which created national forests. President Johnson also expresses his gratitude for Congress stating, "No single Congress in my memory has done so much to keep America as a good and wholesome and beautiful place to live."

Today, over 109 million acres of public land make up The National Wilderness Preservation System.

Sources for this article except where otherwise noted are National Park Service, and
U.S. Forest Service.

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