The Wilderness Act at 50: Hope in the Unseen

Photography by Ian Shive

The Wilderness Act turns 50 this summer. That landmark law now protects 110 million acres of untamed landscape--roughly 5 percent of the country's total acreage, an area bigger than California--from drills, bulldozers, chainsaws, and other implements of destruction. It's both disheartening and uplifting to consider that few Americans will visit more than a minuscule slice of that land. Disheartening because we all need to get out more. Uplifting because it shows that we understand how important it is to protect the nation's wildest and most remote landscapes--seen or unseen.

  • Wilderness Slideshow

    A "teddy bear" cholla cactus in California's Joshua Tree Wilderness.

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    Wandering among the alien rock formations of New Mexico's Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness Area, visitors often lose all sense of scale. This spire, known as a hoodoo, is barely six feet tall.

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    Hiking through the deep canyons of Oregon's Kalmiopsis Wilderness is like walking with wet sponges strapped to your feet.

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    Early-morning fog is common in the swampy, forested Headwaters Wilderness, in northeastern Wisconsin. 

     

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    In fall, the colors are loud but the landscape is silent at Wild River Wilderness, in New Hampshire. 

     

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    Although the Algodones Dunes Wilderness is only four hours by car from Los Angeles, relatively few Californians even know it exists. 

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    Once near extinction, this rare Hawaiian succulent, called a Haleakala silversword, is now a protected species within the Haleakala Wilderness, on Maui. 

  • Wilderness Slideshow

    The mountain ranges and active volcanoes of the massive, 2.6 million-acre Lake Clark Wilderness are known as the Alaskan Alps.

 

 

 

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