Salazar's Gift to the Nation - Saving Our Last Wild Lands

In 1960, American author Wallace Stegner  wrote, “We simply need that wild country available to us, even if we never do more than drive to its edge and look in. For it can be a means of reassuring ourselves of our sanity as creatures, a part of the geography of hope.”  To read Stegner's complete Wilderness Letter click here.

Congress passed the Wilderness Act in 1964.  Many of our nation’s wilderness quality lands, however, have not secured protection under the Wilderness Act.  An area must be individually designated as a Wilderness Area by an act of Congress to qualify for the protections of the Wilderness Act.

On December 23, Interior Department Secretary Ken Salazar took a critical step to preserve our nation’s last wild lands.  Standing in front of the Recreational Equipment Inc (REI) building in Denver, Salazar issued a Secretarial Order highlighting the importance of the wilderness values of the public lands.  The order affirms the Bureau of Land Management’s obligation to identify the lands with wilderness characteristics that exist and to provide for their protection. 

Over ten million acres across the West have wilderness characteristics, but have not been designated as wilderness by Congress.  Some of the lands at stake include Utah’s Upper Desolation Canyon, Wyoming’s Adobe Town and New Mexico’s Otero Mesa.  Prior to Salazar’s order, we were losing these areas one by one as new roads were bull-dozed across them for oil and gas drilling rigs. 

Salazar has reaffirmed the value of what wilderness means.  He has acted to fulfill the plea Stegner made 50 years ago – a plea for glory, a plea for beauty, a plea for sanity.  Thank you Secretary Salazar for your gift to the nation.

About the Authors

Sharon Buccino

Director, Land & Wildlife program

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