Sunday, September 13, 2009

National Wilderness Month

On September 3, there was a milestone in conservation history. It was the 45th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act.
President Obama extended the celebration to the entire month long by commemorating September 2009 as “National Wilderness Month.”
At the same time, the President invited fellow Americans to explore our nation’s wilderness:
“I call upon all Americans to visit and enjoy our wilderness areas, learn more about our wilderness heritage, and explore what can be done to protect and preserve these precious national treasures.”
Earlier this year, Obama signed the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009, which designated over two million acres of wilderness from coast to coast.
The Wilderness Act protects some of America’s last few unspoiled landscapes — from Bob Marshall Wilderness in Montana to Alaska’s Denali Wilderness — so that they might remain forever wild.
New Jersey might not be a place that contains what could be classified "wilderness" any more, but when you go camping, hiking, climbing, paddling, fishing, or simply walking in those woods and forests, you can begin to appreciate wilderness.

Of course, many NJ residents will visit true wilderness areas in other states. The first nine million acres protected included Montana and Idaho’s Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in Minnesota, the John Muir Wilderness in California, and New Mexico’s Gila Wilderness.

The National Wilderness Preservation System today includes 109 million acres from snow-capped mountains to wildflower-filled meadows, ancient forests, and deserts. There are wilderness areas in 44 states.

One place to enjoy wilderness close to home is in our own locations that are part of the National Wildlife Refuges. New Jersey has five such areas, and this week I will focus on these NJ wildlife refuges.