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Press Room:  For Immediate Release 
Explore, Enjoy and Protect the Planet

September 2, 2009

Contact: Kristina Johnson
(415) 977.5619

On 45th Anniversary of Wilderness Act, New Challenge is Global Warming

When the Wilderness Act was signed into law on September 3, 1964, few people knew just how important it would become. The Act immediately protected nine million acres of pristine public lands. Since that time, more than a hundred million additional acres of protected land have been added to the National Wilderness Preservation System, including more than 2 million acres added this past spring, when President Obama signed the Omnibus Public Lands Bill.

Statement of Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope

The Wilderness Act is one of the most important environmental laws in history. The Act has helped shape the American landscape and imagination, and it has never been more important than it is today.

In the years since the law was passed, the march of industrial development has gobbled up much of America's landscape. Those places protected by the Wilderness Act remain isolated refuges--not just for wildlife like elk and bears, but for Americans seeking solace in the form of hiking, fishing, and hunting.

But today, America's wilderness faces a new challenge. Global warming is already melting glaciers, increasing the length and severity of fire seasons in forests, and displacing wildlife like pikas, grizzlies, and bighorn sheep. Scientists tell us that in order to help wildlife survive global warming, we need to safeguard as much habitat as possible. Wilderness has never been more important.

We also need to protect the corridors that connect these refuges, the migration routes that will allow bears and bighorn sheep to travel and seek food and safer ground, and will allow plants like Joshua trees to grow in new places as their traditional habitat changes. 

This past spring, we celebrated a landmark wilderness victory when President Obama signed a law protecting 2 million new acres of wilderness. To keep our wildlife and wild places safe, we must continue to do what our predecessors did when they worked to pass the Wilderness Act of 1964--look ahead at the legacy we want to pass on to our children and grandchildren.


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