On September 3, 1964, President Johnson signed the Wilderness Act into law, protecting 9.1 million acres of the country’s wildest places for generations to come. The landmark conservation law now protects more than 111 million acres of land, with over 20 million acres managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Wildlife Refuge System. Wilderness Areas designated by congress possess the highest protection granted to federal lands.
The Act defines wilderness as, “…an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain”.
So, what does this mean? It means that most human activities are prohibited in wilderness areas: no roads, motorized vehicles or equipment, commercial development, or structures are allowed. These restrictions, and others, ensure that designated areas remain generally unhindered by visitors.
In 1975, 3000 acres of the refuge were designated as National Wilderness. The Blackbeard Island Wilderness Area features a scenic trail that leads visitors through a lush maritime forest of live oak and palmetto and along a stretch of isolated, white sandy beach.
Some wilderness areas, like Wolf Island National Wildlife Refuge, are closed to the public entirely. Wolf Island provides critical sanctuary for rare migrating birds and nursery habitat for sea turtles. Over 75% of the refuge is saltwater marsh.
When learning about federally designated wilderness areas, it is important to recognize the perspectives of the Indigenous peoples who have been land stewards for thousands of years. Most environments we deem natural today have been influenced by native residents throughout time, which means few places on the planet are truly untouched by man. The role Indigenous peoples have played in shaping America’s landscapes, including areas protected by the Wilderness Act, demonstrate that humans and nature are not mutually exclusive but interconnected.
Which of the following statements is true?