By Sara Husby-Good
This year celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act of 1964, a law that revolutionized wilderness protections and created a way for Americans to protect their most pristine wild lands for future generations.
To commemorate this legislation, Tuleyome — a regional nonprofit conservation organization based in Woodland — and other conservation-focused organizations around the country are organizing events open to the public.
Howard Zahniser of The Wilderness Society created the first draft of the Wilderness Act in 1956 but it took nine years and 65 rewrites before it finally was approved in 1964. The act was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964 and established, for the first time, designated “wilderness areas.”
While working on the legislation, Zahniser commented that it is not just the law that protects wilderness but the community of supporters who come together to steward these lands into the future that truly protects these special places.
When the Wilderness Act was passed, 54 areas (9.1 million acres) in 13 states were designated as wilderness. Since then, the National Wilderness Preservation System has grown almost every year and now includes 758 areas (109,504,348 acres) in 44 states and Puerto Rico.
Wilderness areas are managed by four federal land management agencies: the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Land Management.
The term wilderness is defined as: “an area where the earth and community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain” and “an area of undeveloped federal land retaining its primeval character and influence, without permanent improvements or human habitation, which is protected and managed so as to preserve its natural conditions.”
This act made it possible for local wilderness areas — such as those in the Berryessa Snow Mountain region, including Cache Creek Wilderness, Cedar Roughs Wilderness and Snow Mountain Wilderness — to exist.
Why is wilderness so important? Wilderness is our American legacy; wilderness provides places for people to enjoy, habitat for native plants and wildlife, and it’s a great source of economic activity through eco-tourism.
This year has been dedicated as Tuleyome’s year of “Celebrating Our Public Lands” in commemoration of both the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act and the 150th anniversary of the California state park system.
At Tuleyome, the board and staff believe that “everyone deserves access to the outdoors.” Tuleyome’s national award-winning program, Home Place Adventures, encourages people of all ages to become more connected to and involved with the natural world that surrounds us.
The program provides not only engaging outdoor experiences and service projects that encourage local youths to become leaders in conservation, sustainability and land stewardship, but also offers the public free guided hikes and outings. Tuleyome’s goal is to educate and empower the community to care for and help protect the land and resources that we enjoy and on which we depend.
To that end, the nonprofit regularly leads hikes for the public in and around the Cache Creek Wilderness area (except in the very hot summer months), and in May will be hosting a camping trip to the Snow Mountain Wilderness. (Reservations are required.)
Furthermore, Tuleyome’s new lecture series, “Nature and You: Thursday Talks at the Library,” starts in June with a kickoff lecture on the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. Piggybacking on President Obama’s STEM program — which seeks to encourage young women to enter the educational fields of science, technology, engineering and math — the lecture series, produced in partnership with the Yolo County Library system, will feature female speakers who will address nature and the earth sciences, ecology, climate change, clean watersheds and the special wild landscapes within the surrounding region.
All lectures, which run through June 2015, are free to the public and will take place at the Stephens Branch Library, 315 E. 14th St. in Davis.
Other Tuleyome-hosted outdoor events include:
* “A Sunflower Story”: 3:30 to 5 p.m. Friday, May 9, at Kids Space inside the Whole Earth Festival at UC Davis.
* “Kids in the Garden”: Thursdays starting May 15 through June 6, at the Hanna and Herbert Bauer Community Garden in Woodland. It’s free and open to the public with sign-up.
* “Summer Survival Camp”: a four-day experience in July, learning about wilderness survival skills, search and rescue, and a family campout. Sites for the adventure include the Cache Creek Nature Preserve, Conaway Ranch and an overnight stay at Lake Solano.
* “Talk Trash”: a summer excursion to the Yolo County Landfill to learn about recycling and sustainability.
* “A Day by the Lake”: Fun for all ages, and fitness levels. Tuleyome will host a barbecue potluck, hiking and family-friendly activities on Oct. 4 at Lake Solano.
— Sara Husby-Good is executive director of Tuleyome and is the chairperson for the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act in California. For more information on how to join Tuleyome’s Wilderness Act-inspired celebrations and to RSVP for the lectures, outings and events, visit www.Tuleyome.org