This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act of 1964, legislation that first set aside federal public lands as protected wilderness. To honor this anniversary, the Sequoia Natural History Association is presenting a free talk by Edward Zahniser, son of one of the authors of the act on June 13 from 7 to 8 pm at the Three Rivers Art Center in Three Rivers, California.
A writer himself and author of a dozen National Park Service Handbooks, Edward is a retired writer-editor for the National Park Service publications division. He has also a published poet. His presentation, “Wilderness Speaks: Celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act,” offers a singular opportunity to hear personal insights about the writing of the eloquent Wilderness Act and learn about Howard Zahniser's literary mentors and the writing process of the legislation.
The Wilderness Act preserved 9.1 million acres of federal public lands and included some of the most imaginative and poetic writing ever used in legislation. It defines wilderness as "an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain," and mandated the creation and expansion of the National Wilderness Preservation system.
Howard Zahniser was the champion and primary author of the legislation, which underwent more than 60 revisions between January 1956 and May 1964. He died just four months before Lyndon B. Johnson signed the act into law on September 3 of that year. Alice Zahniser, Ed's mother, attended the ceremony in her husband's stead.
The Wilderness Act remains the guiding legislation for the continued management and establishment of wilderness areas and the protection of natural areas and the character of the wilderness in the United States. Today the National Wilderness Preservation System preserves 109.5 million acres and provides endless opportunities for backpackers to find the rejuvenation and solace of the backcountry.
The Three Rivers Arts Center is located on the North Fork Road, just off Highway 198 and approximately 1.25 hours southeast of Fresno.
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