September 17, 2014

Senators Commemorate 50 Years of Protecting America’s Wilderness Lands

Wyden, Sessions and 40 additional senators mark the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act

Washington, D.C.  – U.S. Senators Ron Wyden, D- Ore., and Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., today commemorated 50 years of bipartisan efforts to preserve public lands through the Wilderness Act by introducing a Senate resolution that celebrates the 50th Anniversary of the Act’s passage and its continued importance in protecting millions of acres across America.

First passed by Congress in 1964 with overwhelming popularity – by a vote of 73 to 12 in the Senate and 373 to 1 in the House of Representatives – the Wilderness Act created the National Wilderness Preservation System. The law has continued to enjoy broad, bipartisan support, with Congress having added 110 million acres to the National Wilderness Preservation System since the law was first enacted.

“Wilderness has been called the ‘gold standard’ of conservation,” Wyden said. “For 50 years, America has set aside places under the strongest level of protection so they remain wild for generations to appreciate and enjoy, while also working with diverse stakeholders to address local issues.”

“Over the past 50 years, Congress has reserved some of our most pristine natural environments for future generations through the wilderness designation,” Sessions said.  “Our nation is blessed with many of the most beautiful natural resources and sanctuaries on the face of this Earth.  We are grateful for those who fought for to preserve this natural legacy, and are resolved in our commitment to maintain this heritage for the next generation.”   

Designated wilderness areas generally protect only the most pristine remaining areas in the United States by prohibiting motorized vehicle access, infrastructure development and many commercial activities in an effort to keep the areas as pristine as possible. Today, there are 759 wilderness areas in 44 states, and these play host to diverse outdoor activities from hunting to camping, fishing and hiking. America’s outdoor recreation economy generates $646 billion in consumer spending, and supports more than six million jobs.

The Wilderness Act holds personal significance for several cosponsors of the bill introduced today, including Senate cousins Mark Udall, D-Colo., and Tom Udall, D- N.M., whose fathers, Morris “Mo” Udall and Stewart Udall, were instrumental in the writing and passage of the original Wilderness Act.  

Other senators who cosponsored the commemorative bill include Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., Rob Portman, R- Ohio, Michael Bennet, D- Colo., Richard Burr, R-N.C., Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, Mark Kirk, R-Ill., Ed Markey, D-Mass., Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Carl Levin, D-Mich., Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., Tim Johnson, D-S.D., Robert Menendez, D-N.J., Harry Reid, D-Nev., John Walsh, D-Mont., Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Cory Booker, D-N.J., Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Patty Murray, D-Wash., Angus King, I-Maine, Chris Coons, D-Del., Bob Casey, D-Penn., Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, John Tester, D-Mont., Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., Al Franken, D-Minn., Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., Mark Warner, D-Va., Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., Susan Collins, R-Maine, Jay Rockefeller, D-W.V., Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and Kay Hagan, D-N.C.

Read the bill text here.


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