“If future generations are to remember us with gratitude rather than contempt, we must leave them a glimpse of the world as it was in the beginning, not just after we got through with it.” – President Lyndon Johnson upon signing the Wilderness Act 50 years ago today.
To those of us who frequent the Wilderness, this act of legislation is at the pinnacle of governance. It exists within a realm that values permanence, sustainability and legacy over business and expedience. It recognizes that time tested fact that freedom cannot be purchased, but can be experienced by anyone who spends a night under an unpolluted summer sky.
By protecting the wilderness areas against development, we have created sanctuaries from our overbearing human footprint. In these beautifully balanced systems, we find an equilibrium wherein humans can coexist with our animal siblings, where the air and land are self-maintained. Where we quickly find that we are not outside or above the natural order, and thrill in every step we take that moves us closer to seamless integration.
This way of life must always be maintained. And the pursuit cannot just stop at the wilderness borders. The lessons learned in the wilderness apply in all places. We must seek to lessen our impact, to coexist with nature and to build ways of thinking and operating that serve not to benefit us, but to benefit the world for all generations to come.
Thank you to the pioneers who blazed this path 50 years ago, and may it continue to inspire our achievements both within the wild places, and beyond.