CELEBRATING THE 50th ANNIVERSARY OF THE WILDERNESS ACT
Local Hikes & Speaker Series to Commemorate Santa Barbara’s Rich Wilderness Legacy
Santa Barbara, Calif. – Today, local groups are joining the nationwide celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the signing of the Wilderness Act. The legislation – passed by a near-unanimous bipartisan Congress and signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964 – is our nation’s strongest tool to conserve federal public lands like national parks, national forests, and national monuments.
Los Padres ForestWatch – the leading wilderness advocacy organization along California’s central coast – is organizing several celebrations throughout the central coast to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act. Led by local hikers and naturalists, we are hosting a hike in each of the 10 wilderness areas across the Los Padres National Forest. All hikes will begin at 9am, and bagels, pastries, juice, and coffee will be served at the trailhead. Hikes are limited to 15 people. Following each hike, join us for a wine-tasting, dinner, or other unique offering.
This landmark legislation established the National Wilderness Preservation System and set aside an initial 9.1 million acres of wildlands for the use and benefit of the American people. Over the past fifty years, and as a result of widespread support for wilderness, Congress has added over 100 million acres to this unique land preservation system, protecting 5% of the country’s land base. The Los Padres National Forest contains ten Congressionally-designated wilderness areas totaling 875,000 acres in Santa Barbara, Ventura, San Luis Obispo, Monterey, and Kern counties.
The Wilderness Act defines “wilderness” as areas where the earth and its communities of life are left unchanged by people, where the primary forces of nature are in control, and where people themselves are visitors who do not remain. Wilderness designation permanently protects national forests and other public lands from development and extractive land uses like logging, mining and oil drilling, while allowing hiking, backpacking, camping, hunting and fishing, and horseback riding.
“The Los Padres National Forest has some of the best wilderness areas in all of California,” said Jeff Kuyper, executive director of Los Padres ForestWatch, the leading wilderness advocacy organization along California’s central coast. “Places like the Sespe, Dick Smith, San Rafael, Santa Lucia, and Ventana wilderness areas provide sources of clean water for our local communities, abundant wildlife habitat, and wide open spaces. There’s no better way to celebrate our region’s rich wilderness heritage than to get out and enjoy all that these lands have to offer.”
ForestWatch is also hosting a wilderness speakers’ series. Doug Scott – one of the nation’s foremost experts on wilderness history and policy – will speak in Santa Barbara on October 21. And on November 6, two of the country’s most inspiring wilderness landscape photographers – Jeff Jones and Marc Muench – will present a visual journey into wilderness areas ranging from our local backcountry to the Arctic tundra. Both presentations begin at 7:30pm at the Faulkner Gallery at the Santa Barbara Public Library, and are free to the public.
A coalition of organizations led by Los Padres ForestWatch is currently working with members of Congress to expand the network of wilderness areas in the Los Padres National Forest. Reflecting community-wide support for land conservation, Rep. Lois Capps introduced the Central Coast Heritage Protection Act (H.R. 4685), which would designate 282,000 acres of additional wilderness in the Los Padres National Forest and the adjacent Carrizo Plain National Monument. The bill would also establish the 400-mile Condor National Recreation Trail, create two scenic areas, and add 158 miles of streams to the National Wild and Scenic River system.
For more information about Wilderness 50 events in our area, visit LPFW.org/wilderness50. The national Wilderness50 website wilderess50th.org also features a nationwide database of information and events commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act. For general information about the Wilderness Act, visit wilderness.net.