A pack string loaded with elk antlers in the Bob Marshall Wilderness in Montana or the Gila in New Mexico. A bighorn ram in the Absaroka of Wyoming. Reeling in pike in the quiet lakes of the Boundary Waters of Minnesota.
Wilderness areas provide, bar none, some of greatest, most adventuresome hunting and fishing in North America. Today we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the signing of the Wilderness Act. Hunters and anglers were a major force behind the law then, and are a major force for backcountry conservation today.
Not every place can be, or should be, wilderness. By some estimates, only 4 percent of the Lower 48 still have "wilderness quality" characteristics. That may be your backyard, or it may be your once-in-a-lifetime dream-come-true.
In 1964, there were fewer than 200 million Americans. Today, there are more than 300 million. All of us put pressure on our remaining wild habitats and clean waters. That is why wilderness areas, and the Wilderness Act, remain relevant after all these decades.
As Andrew McKean wrote in this month's Outdoor Life: "Whether we would ever visit a wilderness area isn't really the point. Instead, it's abut the idea that Americans care enough for wild places to create a special category for them, ensuring they remain primitive in nature and generous in adventure for years to come."
Happy Birthday, America's Wilderness Act.
Ben Long & Joel Webster