U.S. Public Lands Protection: A Look Back

During its second session, the 112th Congress has much unfinished business. This includes 20 bills that Pew's Campaign for America's Wilderness is working on that would permanently protect more than 2 million acres of wildlands. These bipartisan measures would keep wild areas in 11 states undeveloped as a legacy for future generations.

Americans' passion for protecting public land dates back more than a century. John Muir began writing about the importance of wildlands in the 1870s, the first wilderness area—the Gila Wilderness in New Mexico—was protected in 1924, and President Lyndon Johnson signed the Wilderness Act into law in 1964.

Times have changed, but successful public land conservation still requires citizen outreach, dedicated public and private leadership, political will, and a bipartisan approach. Explore our interactive timeline featuring milestones from America's land protection history: