The Wilderness Act turns 50 years old today. Written by Howard Zahniser of The Wilderness Society, the Act created an American legal definition for wilderness and initially protected 9.1 million acres of federal land.
To meet the minimal designation for Wilderness Act protection, the land must exhibit minimal human imprint, have opportunities for unconfined recreation, be at least five thousand acres in size (about 8 square miles), and have educational, scientific, or historical value.
The Wilderness Act was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson who, upon signing, said:
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.
Today, the Wilderness Act covers 109.5 million acres of federally owned land in 44 states and Puerto Rico -- about 5% of the land in the U.S.
Of all Wilderness-designated land, about 56% is in National Parks, 18% in National Forests. 22% in land managed by the Fish and Wildlife Seervice, adn 2 percent managed by the Bureau of Land Management.