Exhibits: The Lands: Gila Wilderness
What is Wilderness?
We Americans take care of our public lands in different ways. We manage some of our lands for fish and wildlife, and develop others for recreation or energy. 106 million acres of our public lands are preserved in their pristine state.
The law that Congress passed in 1964 to protect our undeveloped lands defines a wilderness as follows:
This translates to lands where the grizzly and the wolf still roam free. These lands cover piney mountain forests, marshy green wetlands, dusty red mesas, and sunbaked deserts. They include snow-capped peaks, shady canyons, quiet lakes, and the deafening crash of a waterfall.
Benefits of Wilderness
Today, the public land agencies manage 644 separate wilderness areas in 44 states. These areas protect habitat for species that need old-growth forests, clean air and water, or a lot of room to roam. The uncut forests filter our air, and the uncontaminated land filters our water. Scientists appreciate wilderness areas for providing examples of healthy ecosystems, which they use as models to improve the health of more developed areas.
Wilderness benefits our planet in many ways, but it also affects us on a personal level. People who take the time to explore a wilderness are touched by the solitude and the increasingly rare peace, which can only be found far from "man and his own works." Those who take the time to understand a wilderness are impressed with the complex web of life found in these undisturbed areas. Even people who have never visited a wilderness feel better knowing that our country still contains clean, beautiful, wild lands, which are owned, protected, and beloved by the American people.
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