1956 draft of The Wilderness Act. The Denver Public Library’s Western History/Genealogy is the repository for the Wilderness Society Records (CONS130). The Act’s primary author, Howard Zahniser, was Executive Director of the Wilderness Society. The collection contains Zahniser’s own drafts of the Wilderness Act which he revised over 50 times between 1956 and 1964. The 19page revision dated March 19, 1956 contains Zahniser’s definition of wilderness. His language would later be fleshed out in often quoted Section 2 C of the Wilderness Act, “where earth and its community of life are untramelled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.”
Today, Colorado’s 3.5 million acres of federally protected wilderness areas are a vital part of our state’s natural beauty, providing a window into what Colorado looked like before permanent settlement. Wilderness areas are natural laboratories for the study of plant, animal and climate science. Wilderness status protects some of our state’s last pristine landscapes, providing quiet, peaceful places for people to escape the everyday pace of life. Wilderness areas are also economic drivers, attracting recreation and tourism across Colorado.
50 years ago, on September 3, 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Wilderness Act into law. The Act was the culmination of decades long efforts by Wilderness Society founders, directors and members. The Act was a monumental achievement in American conservation, and a model for conservation efforts worldwide, setting aside 9.1 million acres in 13 states to remain unspoiled for future generations.
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