When the Wilderness Act passed 50 years ago, the United States became the first country in the world to define and designate wilderness areas through law.
The act describes the wilderness in many ways, but Glen Brand’s favorite definition is “an area where earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man.”
“I always loved that word: untrammeled” said Brand, Director of the Sierra Club Maine Chapter. “It doesn’t mean ‘not to walk on,’ it means ‘something free or unrestrained.’”
The Wilderness Act also stated that wilderness areas “be devoted to the public purposes of recreation, scenic, scientific, educational, conservation and historic use.”
It is fitting, then, that in celebration of the historic act’s 50th anniversary, the Sierra Club Maine Chapter is organizing a series of Maine wilderness outings and events to run spring through fall.
“We know that people only really protect what they care about,” Brand said. “The easiest way to make someone see what’s so special about any wilderness area is to have them get out and enjoy it.”
“Mainers’ close connection to wilderness is an essential to our state’s history and our collective identity, said Becky Bartovics, Sierra Club Maine’s Executive Committee Co-chair, in a recent press release. “The 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act is a good time to explore, enjoy and protect Maine wild lands for generations to come.”
“In Maine, celebrating wildness is just what we do,” Brand said.“Wilderness provides a refuge from the distractions of modern life and it gives us silent wild spaces for us to slow down and realign, so to speak, with core parts of the Earth and its rhythms.”
For more an 100 years, the Sierra Club has been devoted to the conservation of the country’s natural areas. It was one of the major advocates for creating the Wilderness Act, which was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on Sept. 3, 1964.
“Wilderness is a necessity … There must be a place or human beings to satisfy their souls,” wrote John Muir (1838-1914), renowned American naturalist and Sierra Club’s co-founder.
The act established the National Wilderness Preservation System (NWPS), and over the past 50 years, more than 100 million acres have been added to this land preservation system, including Maine’s Caribou-Speckled Mountain Wilderness and Moosehorn Wilderness, which has two units.
“It is really historic because it is the world’s first such wilderness preservation law, and it was the basis of laws all around the world, after that,” Brand said. “It was also the foundation for subsequent wilderness protection laws in the United States.”
The Wilderness Act led to the creation of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act (1968), which provided wilderness protection to many rivers nationwide including the Maine’s Allagash River. Currently, a federal study is being conducted to decide whether the York River in Southern Maine is eligible for National Wild and Scenic Rivers designation.
The following list is a sample of the outings and events organized by the Sierra Club Maine Chapter for spring through fall:
- Lobster Lake canoe trip, July 11-13
- Thoreau Wabanaki Celebration in Greenville, July 25-27
- 100 Mile Wilderness Celebration at West Branch Pond Camps, August 8-10
- Yoga retreat at Camp Mechuwama in Winthrop, August 22-24
- Sierra Club Annual Dinner Celebrating the WILD at Maple Hill Farm in Hallowell, Sept. 5
- Writing nature workshop “Women’s Voices: Lunksoos Camps” in northern Maine, Oct. 3-5
A complete list of events and registration information can be found at maine.sierraclub.org/celebratethewild.htm.
In addition, the chapter is sponsoring “Family Picnics in the Parks” in Range Pond State Park and Reid State Park in July; Ferry Beach State Park in August; and Bradbury Mountain State Park in September.
The chapter is also hosting several nature film screenings at various locations throughout Maine:
- “Forever Wild, Celebrating America’s Wilderness” in Bar Harbor, June 22
- “A Fierce Green Fire” in Bar Harbor, July 20
- “The Meaning of the Wild” in North Haven, August 13
- “Into the Arctic II” in Bar Harbor, Aug. 17
- “Ocean Frontiers” in Bar Harbor, Sept. 21
Information about these screenings can be found at http://maine.sierraclub.org/celebratethewild.htm.
To learn about Sierra Club Maine Chapter and view the full list of outings and events planned for this year, visit maine.sierraclub.org. The Sierra Club Maine Chapter celebration is part of a larger national celebration of the Wilderness Act 50th anniversary, outlined at wilderness50th.org. To learn about the Wilderness Act, visit http://www.wilderness.net.