The Wilderness Society Founded (1935)

The Wilderness Society, America’s largest and foremost advocate for preserving wilderness, was founded on January 21, 1935.  Since then, The Wilderness Society has grown to being the voice for “1 million wilderness supporters.”

Bob Marshall in camping gear

The Wilderness Society was the dream of Bob Marshall (learn more), who was the head of recreation and lands for the U.S. Forest Service in the mid-1930s.  He had prepared a draft of his ideas for such an organization and had shared it with several colleagues.  In October, 1934, Marshall and three friends were driving to a Civilian Conservation Corps camp in Tennessee when the talk of the new society grew intense.  They pulled to the roadside and discussed Marshall’s draft in detail, vowing to make this new group happen.

They gathered four more supporters, including Aldo Leopold, and met at Washington’s famous Cosmos Club in January, 1935, to finalize their plans.  After two days of intense discussion, they all agreed, on January 21, to the structure and purpose of the new organization, to be called The Wilderness Society.  They declared:  “All we desire to save from invasion is that extremely minor fraction of outdoor America which yet remains free from mechanical sights and sounds and smells.” Bob Marshall, the original champion of the group, died unexpectedly in 1938 at the young age of 38, but he had prepared well to keep his dream alive—Marshall was a wealthy bachelor, and he left a sizable portion of his estate to support the new society.

Since then, the impact of The Wilderness Society on American conservation has been extraordinary.  They fought continuously for new parks that would include “primitive areas,” long before the concept of wilderness had been codified.  The group’s first and most important victory was passage of The Wilderness Act in 1964 (read more), which established definitions of wilderness and a mechanism for declaring and  managing wilderness areas regardless of which federal agency had ownership of the lands and water. “A wilderness,” the Act states, “in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.”  As part of the act’s passage, 54 areas totaling 9.1 million acres were designated as wilderness

The Bob Marshall Wilderness in Montana (photo by Sam Beebe)

Since then, we have never stopped adding more areas.  The U.S. has protected 109 million acres of wilderness—5% of the U.S. land surface.  The total area is dispersed among 765 separate areas in 44 states and Puerto Rico.  The areas are managed by four U.S. land management agencies, including the National Park Service, Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, and Bureau of Land Management.

The U.S. has the largest national wilderness program in the world, holding about one-third of the entire globe’s designated wilderness.  The top five countries in the world for wilderness area are, in order, the U.S., Canada, Botswana, Mongolia and Australia.

References:

Aplet, Greg, and Jerry Greenberg.  1996.  The Wilderness Society – Advocating for Wilderness in Changing Times.  International Journal of Wilderness 2(3):31-33.  Available at:  http://www.wilderness.net/library/documents/aplet.pdf.  Accessed January 18, 2018.

Environment & Society Portal.  The Wilderness Society founded.  Available at:  http://www.environmentandsociety.org/tools/keywords/wilderness-society-founded.  Accessed January 18, 2018.

The Wilderness Society,  2017.  For Our Wild, The Wilderness Society’s 2016 Annual Report.  Available at:  https://wilderness.org/sites/default/files/TWS_AR_2016_LowResSingles_0.pdf.  Accessed January 18, 2018.

This Month in Conservation

February 1
Afobaka Dam and Operation Gwamba (1964)
February 2
Groundhog Day
February 3
George Adamson, African Lion Rehabilitator, Born (1906)
February 4
Congress Overrides President Reagan’s Veto of Clean Water Act (1987)
February 5
National Wildlife Federation Created (1936)
February 6
Colin Murdoch, Inventor of the Tranquilizer Gun, Born (1929)
February 7
Karl August Mobius, Ecology Pioneer, Born (1825)
February 8
President Johnson Addresses Congress about Conservation (1965)
February 8
Lisa Perez Jackson, Environmental Leader, Born (1982)
February 9
U.S. Fish Commission Created (1871)
February 10
Frances Moore Lappe, author of Diet for a Small Planet, born (1944)
February 11
International Day of Women and Girls in Science
February 12
Judge Boldt Affirms Native American Fishing Rights (1974)
February 13
Thomas Malthus Born (1766)
February 14
Nature’s Faithful Lovers
February 15
Complete Human Genome Published (2001)
February 16
Kyoto Protocol, Controlling Greenhouse-Gas Emissions, Begins (2005)
February 16
Alvaro Uglade, Father of Costa Rica’s National Parks, Born (1946)
February 17
Sombath Somphone, Laotian Environmentalist, Born (1952)
February 17
R. A. Fischer, Statistician, Born (1890)
February 18
Julia Butterfly Hill, Tree-Sitter, Born (1974)
February 18
World Pangolin Day
February 19
Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial Established (1962)
February 20
Ansel Adams, Nature Photographer, Born (1902)
February 21
Carolina Parakeet Goes Extinct (1918)
February 22
Nile Day
February 23
Italy’s Largest Inland Oil Spill (2010)
February 24
Joseph Banks, British Botanist, Born (1743)
February 25
First Federal Timber Act Passed (1799)
February 26
Four National Parks Established (1917-1929)
February 27
International Polar Bear Day
February 28
Watson and Crick Discover The Double Helix (1953)
February 29
Nature’s Famous Leapers
January February March April May June July August September October November December