The year is 2014 and what you probably don't know is this year is the 50th anniversary of a Moon Lake Cloud Peak WildernessCredit: Personal Photocritical piece of legislation that has defined land management in the US for half a century.  The Wilderness Act took land that was of special and sensitive nature and placed it in the most highly protected status that land can have in the United States.  In a decade filled with important legislation the Wilderness Act took a backseat to heavy hitters like the Clean Air and Water Quality Act buts it legacy is not to be denied, it gave us a "enduring resource of wilderness..." that we enjoy to this day 


The people that helped it happen.

Aldo Leopold

A powerful force in the world of wildlife management and forestry he is directly responsible for getting the nations first wilderness area of 500,000 acres designated in the Gila National Forest in 1924.  In 1935 he joined with other wilderness alum to form The Wilderness Society and he wrote the Sand County Almanac a famous book that is required reading for any natural resources student.  In it he expressed his land ethic which became the guiding principle for The Wilderness Society.  

Howard Zahniser  

The man who really made is all happen was Howard Zahniser.  He took what he learned from the early pioneers in wilderness like Aldo Leopold, Bob Marshall and Arthur Carhart and he brought all that knowledge and some political savvy to Congress and was the one responsible for getting the legislation passed through Congress.  Sadly despite all his efforts he passed away on May 5th 1964 just a few month before the bill was passed.

Bob Marshall   

One of the earliest and strongest proponents of wilderness and its benefits for the country Bob Marshall was one of the powerhouses of the early wilderness movement.  He was a prolific writer of papers and books detailing the need to preserve and protect large swaths of land for both study and future enjoyment.  He was famous more his 30-40 mile a day hikes but was consistently plagued by health issues that could never be fully resolved.  His drive and passion was instrumental in influencing those like Zahniser and Leopold into pushing until The Wilderness Act was passed.  He died on November 11th, 1939 at the young age of 39 so he never got to see The Wilderness Act passed but his conservation legacy lives through it and The Wilderness Society he founded. 

There are so many more influential people that had a hand in the creation of the wilderness system we know today.  But I feel I cannot properly do them all justice here so instead I highlighted my three favorites of the many who made it happen.  For more information about the people who made it all happen check out

Why is wilderness important?

Wilderness is important to different people for different reasons.  We all have are own opinions on what is important or not and the best I can do is to tell you why I think wilderness is important. 

Hiking in Cloud Peak WildernessCredit: personal photoRecreation is by far the most common reason why people say wilderness important.  It gives them a chance to step out of their modern lives, leave the cellphones, Facebook updates and the trappings of modern society behind.  I think on a fundamental level we don't feel as alive behind a desk as we do walking a trail through the woods.  We need to take breaks and go back to our literal roots as a species and remind ourselves what it is like to truly take on Mother Nature and everything she can throw at us.

Wilderness could also be a guide on how to better manage our nations natural resources.  Wildernesses with their protected statuses are allowed to have natural processes take place.  So if fire comes and trees burn we let it happen.  Wildlife can live, eat and die by the natural uncontrolled methods that nature provides.  With all these natural processes taking place without interference we can use wilderness as a control sample in the great experiment that is land management.

So whatever reason you think that wilderness is important is for you and you alone.  Just make sure to take the time to get out and enjoy the areas that have been set aside for you.  To find the closest wilderness to you check out and go explore some of this worlds natural wonders.