Vermont Press Releases

Forest Service and partners celebrate 50 years of the Wilderness Act

News Release -- National Forest Service
Sept. 15, 2014

Media Contact:
Ethan M. Ready, Public Affairs Officer
Voice: (802) 747‐6760
Cell: (802) 558‐8176

U.S. Senator James Jeffords and former Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Mollie Beattie to be honored for their lifelong commitment to natural resource protection

RUTLAND, VT. (Sept. 15, 2014) – The landmark Wilderness Act of 1964, which protects vast landscapes throughout America’s wild places, was signed 50 years ago this month by President Lyndon Johnson. The Wilderness Act established the country’s National Wilderness Preservation System – which now totals 758 wilderness areas covering almost 110 million acres. More than half of these areas are within a day’s drive of America's largest cities including Seattle, Portland, Denver, Phoenix, Los Angeles, Chicago and New York City. Wilderness areas contribute significantly to our nation's health and well-being.
In Vermont, the U.S. Forest Service manages eight congressionally designated wildernesses totaling just more than 100,000 acres in the more than 400,000-acre Green Mountain National Forest. Forest Service officials, environmental groups, nonprofit organizations and other government agencies have been working in recent months to organize a large public celebration marking the 50th anniversary of this significant environmental legislation. The family friendly fall celebration will be held Sept. 28 from 11 a.m. - 3 p.m. at Middlebury College's Breadloaf Campus, which is on Vermont Route 125 in Ripton, Vermont. This free event is part of a national celebration of the Wilderness Act’s golden anniversary and honors Vermont's long tradition of conservation and partnerships.

At 12 p.m. a special recognition ceremony will be held to honor former U.S. Senator James Jeffords and former U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Mollie Beattie for their lifelong commitment to protecting natural resources. Family representatives are scheduled to be on hand to receive recognition on behalf of Jeffords and Beattie, both long-term champions of wilderness.

From 1985 to 1989, Beattie served as Vermont Commissioner of the Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation; from 1989 to 1990, she was deputy secretary for Vermont's Agency of Natural Resources. From 1993 to 1996, Beattie served as the first woman Director of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

James M. Jeffords was first elected to represent Vermont in Congress in 1974 as a member of the House of Representatives and was sworn in to the U.S. Senate in 1989 where he served until his retirement in 2006. As a member of the House of Representatives, Jeffords was critical to the establishment of the Big Branch, Breadloaf, Bristol Cliffs, Aiken, Lye Brook and Peru Peak wilderness areas. In the U.S. Senate, Jeffords, along with Senator Patrick Leahy, introduced legislation establishing the Battell and Glastenbury wilderness areas as well as the Moosalamoo National Recreation Area.

The recognition ceremony will be followed by a keynote address from Erica Wheeler, an inspirational sense of place song-writer, speaker, environmental advocate and conservation educator. More information on Erica Wheeler can be found here:

Other event activities include:

Live bluegrass music by Bob Amos and Catamount Crossing

Conservation and environmental exhibits

Natural resource trivia and games

Guided nature hikes and tours for adults and children

Throughout 2014, the Forest Service has hosted events across America to highlight the value of wilderness areas in an effort to connect more people with their National Wilderness Preservation System. The Forest Service is the only federal agency in the state of Vermont that manages congressionally designated wilderness areas. The Forest Service was also the first federal agency in the world to set aside land for wilderness protection -- the Gila Wilderness in New Mexico, established in 1924. While other federal agencies such as the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Park Service do manage wilderness areas in other parts of the country, the Forest Service manages more wilderness units than any other federal agency (439 wilderness areas totaling more than 36 million acres) and more than half of all wilderness acres outside of Alaska.

The U.S. Forest Service is an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, with a mission of sustaining the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. Recreational activities on the country’s national forests contribute $14.5 billion annually to the U.S. economy. The agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world. The Forest Service’s Eastern Region includes 20 states in the Midwest and East, stretching from Maine, to Maryland, to Missouri, to Minnesota. There are 17 national forests and one national tallgrass prairie in the Eastern Region.


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