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WILDERNESS ACT NEARLY 50 YEARS OLD
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by Karen Yarnell | 2013

Signed into law in 1964, the Wilderness Act will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2014. The national Sierra Club is already making plans, and we invite you to get involved and be part of this big national celebration to ac-knowledge and applaud the major achievement represented by the National Wilderness Preservation System in our coun-try. Help make our celebrations in West Virginia a memorable part of 2014.
 
Nationwide there are over 100 million acres Congress has added to the Wilder-ness Preservation system, with more to come over the years. Wilderness designa-tion is the strongest and most permanent protection that can be extended to our Fed-eral public lands. Wilderness areas include wild places in national parks, national for-ests, wildlife refuges, and western lands of the Bureau of Land Management.

In the Monongahela National Forest of West Virginia, the Dolly Sods Wilderness and Otter Creek Wilderness were established by Congress in 1975. The Cranberry Wilder-ness and Laurel Fork Wilderness North and South were designated in 1983. In 2009, the Wild Monongahela Act added 37,000 acres of wilderness in the Mon National Forest. Big Draft, Spice Run, and Roaring Plains West were permanently protected as wilderness, and Dolly Sods, Cranberry and Otter Creek wilderness lands were expanded. The WV Wilderness Coalition, founded in 2002 by the WV Chapter of the Sierra Club, WV Highlands Conservancy, and The Wilderness Society, persevered in this effort.
 
Currently, the newly incorporated WV Wilderness Coalition is working to establish the first national monument in West Virginia. The Birthplace of Rivers National Monument will provide enhanced protection for the headwaters of the Cranberry, Cherry, Williams, Gauley, Elk, and Greenbrier Rivers in the southern Monongahela National Forest.

During 2014, the WV Wilderness Coalition plans to have our own local celebrations for
the 50th anniversary. These will be coordinated with the national Sierra Club, other inter-ested environmental organizations, and the agencies that manage our Federal wilderness areas. We will keep you posted in the Chapter newsletter as our plans for 2014 develop.
 
On September 3, 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Wilderness Act into law.
He is seen here giving the pen used to sign the Act to Alice Zahniser, wife of Howard Zahniser, 
who worked tirelessly to get the Act through Congress, but died only a few months before it was signed into law.


As 50th anniversary coordinator for the West Virginia Chapter, I am looking for some helpers who are enthusiastic about wilderness, who are interested in helping us celebrate, and who may have some ideas about ways we can promote and publicize wilderness during 2014. I hope that means you! We seek involvement by many Chapter members to make all of 2014 the year for wilderness in West Virginia.
 
If interested, please contact Karen Yarnell at karen.grubb@fairmontstate.edu.

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