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Press Release



Secretary Salazar Joins President Obama in Commemorating 45th Anniversary of Wilderness Act



09/03/2009

Contact: Hugh Vickery (DOI), 202-208-6416

WASHINGTON — Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today joined President Obama in commemorating the 45th anniversary of the Wilderness Act and the creation of the National Wilderness Preservation System by President Lyndon Johnson on Sept. 3, 1964.

“The creation of the National Wilderness Preservation System is one of the greatest events in the history of American conservation,” said Salazar, who oversees 73 million of the 109 million acres of designated wilderness in the United States. “These pristine places that are set aside to be forever wild and untouched inspire us and remind us of the bounty with which our nation is blessed in the beauty and richness of our land.”

Wilderness areas are areas of undeveloped federal land that retain their primeval character and influence, without permanent improvements or human habitation, which are protected and managed to preserve their natural conditions. Uses of these lands are generally restricted to non-motorized activities such as hiking, backpacking, horseback riding, and other non-invasive activities.

In March, President Obama signed the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 into law. This law designates 52 new wilderness areas and adds acreage to 26 existing areas, a total addition to the National Wilderness Preservation System of more than 2 million acres.

In an official proclamation issued today, the President declared: “The Wilderness Act is widely recognized as one of this nation’s most important conservation laws. This law and the National Wilderness Preservation System it established have served as a model for similar wilderness protection laws in a number of our States and in nations around the globe.”

The 762 wilderness areas in the United States range in size from the 5-acre Rocks and Islands Wilderness in California to Wrangell-Saint Elias Wilderness in Alaska, which is more than 9 million acres.

Within the Department of the Interior, the National Park Service manages 43.9 million acres, the Fish and Wildlife Service manages 20.7 million acres, and the Bureau of Land Management oversees 8.7 million acres. The Department of Agriculture’s National Forest Service manages 36.2 million acres of wilderness.

All but six states have designated wilderness areas. Alaska has the most wilderness acres -- 57.5 million – followed by California with 14.9 million.