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National Wilderness Conference 50 years in 2014

The year 2014 has already had several events commemorating the 50th anniversary of the signing of the 1964 National Wilderness Act. The National Wilderness Conference will be held from October 15-19, 2014 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It will be a multi-day event of presentations, panels, exhibits, over 20 field trips, skill-development workshops, films, and a festival.

The five main conference tracks will be focused on advances and issues in wilderness stewardship, history, science, experience and civic engagement. For example, Stewardship sessions will cover many topics like the Pinchot Panel, how the monitoring protocol is working, wilderness education and interpretation, and meshing of the Wilderness Act and the National Historic Preservation Act.

History sessions will present social forces, ideas, hopes and concerns that have shaped and are shaping the wilderness movement; attention to specific regions such as the Arctic Refuge, Alaska, and the Adirondacks; wilderness writers such as Aldo Leopold and Arthur Carhart; wilderness legislation evolution and trends; and the future for Wilderness.

The Science sessions will include presentations on early and recent science research; current issues like fire, recreation impacts, and restoration of areas; overpopulation and global climate change; and ecosystems. The goal is to have the science presentations drafted as publications for peer review, then compiled into either a book or series of journal articles for publication.

Experience sessions will be a forum of wilderness professionals exploring needs for maximizing wilderness experiences while protecting resources. It will cover inspiration, solitude and self-reliance/awareness; tribal perspective of natives; story telling, art, photography in wilderness awareness and protection; and wilderness economic benefits and global implications of American wilderness.

Civic engagement sessions will explore wilderness activism through individual volunteerism, organizations, and electoral participation. Groups to be considered are youth, politicians, NGOs, multiculturals and underserved communities, veterans, babyboomers and emerging young adults. These are just very brief descriptions taken from the Wilderness 50th Organization PDF on the website which is much more detailed.

President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Wilderness Act on September 3, 1964 establishing the National Wilderness Preservation System (NWPS) and initially setting aside 9.1 million acres of wildlands for American use and benefit. Congress has since added over 100 million acres. Wilderness is defined in the act as "areas where the earth and its communities of life are left unchanged by people, where the primary forces of nature are in control, and where people themselves are visitors and do not remain." The four federal land management agencies, the Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service, Forest Service, and National Park Service, manage the 757 wilderness areas within the NWPS.

The venues for the national wilderness event are the Hyatt Regency Albuquerque, 330 Tijeras NW, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87102 for the conference; the Albuquerque Convention Center for the exhibition; the adjacent Civic Plaza for the outdoor public Get Wild Festival on October 18; and the historic KiMo Theater for the People's Film Gala with two showings scheduled for October 14 and 19. There will also be audience-specific pre-conference training sessions offered October 14-15; field trips to New Mexico wilderness areas and cultural sites of multi-day backpacking; day trips of hiking, floating, canoeing, and cultural tours; and half-day trips of hiking, biking, canoeing, and cultural tours available before and after the conference.

Register online for the National Wilderness Conference, pre-conference training, field trips, the People's Wilderness Film Gala and other events. Cost for the full conference is $350, or $175 for seniors aged 55 or older, students and seasonals for while early registration rates have been extended "until at least September 25." Other costs are listed on the registration website.

For other information view the Wilderness 50th Facebook page or email For other events across the nation or to enter a local event, see the Wilderness 50th event calendar. Volunteers are also needed and receive a discounted conference rate.

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