Wilderness Act 50th Anniversary
It’s a brand new year and an excellent opportunity to celebrate the wild areas in Washington and beyond. Fifty years ago, in 1964, the Wilderness Act was passed and signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson. This act was the result of a long effort to protect and promote wilderness areas across the U.S. In a time of legislative and administrative excesses the act is refreshing in its succinct and almost poetic definition of wilderness “A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized 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.” Sounds like a wonderful place to go on the back of a willing horse or mule.
Did you know that the Evergreen State contains 4% of the 757 Wilderness areas in America? I think it’s a fair thing to say that as an organization we’ve done our bit to keep the vast majority of our 31 Wilderness areas open to stock use. Through our and our predecessors hard work and tremendous efforts of we’ve maintained our ability to roam throughout the well over 4.5 million acres of Wilderness in Washington. Of course there is much yet to do to keep this hard fought access and we’ll continue to do so, but first let’s consider some of these tremendous successes that we’ve had in these wild places.
I’m sure most of us have a least passing familiarity with evocative names such as Indian Heaven, Goat Rocks, Norse Peak, Alpine Lakes, and of course the Pasayten. These areas are not only favorite destination points of many of our members but they’re also places where BCHW has left a lasting impact in the form of trail maintenance and enduring memories.
The very first work party that I attended as a BHCW member was in the Norse Peak wilderness with the Tahoma and Pierce County Chapters. It was over those 3 days that I learned BCHW was about more than just socializing and Dutch oven cooking. It was about working together and with a lot of sweat equity solidifying the foundation for recreational stock use on public lands. In just 72 hours we fortified tread on the Maggie Creek Trail, and added a significant stretch of new trail outside the wilderness boundary while at the same time demonstrating our commitment to land managers and other user groups. That first work party remains my favorite and not just for the new found appreciation of the machines that aren’t allowed within the wilderness but also for the lasting memories of Ed Letcher (Tahoma) masterfully wrangling his crew of volunteers and of listening to Denny Dargon (Pierce Co) serenading the group with his campfire crooning at the end of the long days. What are your favorite memories of work parties that you’ve attended in Wilderness areas?
If you haven’t a yet created a favorite memory in a Wilderness area, either recreationally or as part of a work party, I encourage you to do so during this Golden anniversary of the Wilderness act. Ask your Chapter leaders about putting together a Wilderness excursion. If the idea of being in the “wilderness” is daunting make an effort to attend your Rendezvous in March. There will be lots of seminars and clinics by those who have been there and done that to help make your visit both safe and memorable!