Wilderness Bills Offer Congress a Chance to Preserve Extraordinary Places

Bipartisan measures would convey gold standard protection for species, habitat, communities, the economy

Wilderness Bills Offer Congress a Chance to Preserve Extraordinary Places
Wilderness Act 10
In southern New Mexico, the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks Conservation Act would safeguard 241,786 acres of wilderness within the eponymous national monument, which is home to Native American and Hispanic heritage sites and more than 300 species of birds. The bill is the result of years of collaboration among a wide variety of stakeholders, including Hispanic leaders, veterans, Native Americans, sportsmen, small-business owners, border security experts, ranchers, faith leaders, historians, and conservationists.
Bob Wick Bureau of Land Management

When President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Wilderness Act on Sept. 3, 1964, he said, “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.”

Since then, Congress has protected more than 110 million acres in 44 states and Puerto Rico as wilderness, the gold standard of federal conservation. These designations invariably came at the request of large groups of Americans seeking preservation of places they love.

Today, The Pew Charitable Trusts is working with local partners to advocate for wilderness designations in 14 states, with more than a dozen bills—many of them bipartisan—currently up for committee hearings and votes in Congress. Here’s a glimpse of 13 of the areas lawmakers have an opportunity to protect.