Passed unanimously by the Senate and with only one dissenting vote in the House, the Wilderness Act reflected the widespread surge of indignation following major environmental abuses of clear-cutting, government-sponsored animal bounties, and industrial pollution.
Gary Ferguson reflects on 50 years of the Wilderness Act in an opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times. Quoting a study by ecological economists J.B. Loomis and Robert Richardson, Ferguson points out that "wilderness preserves in the Lower 48 states are providing air and water filtering, carbon storage and climate regulation services worth more than $3 billion annually. In addition, wilderness use supports some 24,000 jobs, and is part of an outdoor recreation industry that sees roughly $650 million each year in consumer spending."
Today, the system covers a whopping 109 million acres throughout the country. However, the bill is not updated to tackle the challenges brought on by human-caused climate change. In his piece, Ferguson pushes specific policy recommendations such as wilderness expansion and assisted migration to better address the issues facing conservation spaces today.
Hat tip to Jon Christensen for the article.