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February/March 2014

Wilderness 50



2014 is going to be a spectacular year for everyone who loves wildlands, which is a category that includes most of us here on the North Coast, with our wealth of towering coastal forests, dramatic rivers with their incredible runs of spawning salmon, and extraordinary recreational opportunities. Since 2014 is the 50th anniversary of the passage of the landmark federal Wilderness Act, we’ll be celebrating these natural wonders throughout the year with a series of special hikes and other events. Passed by an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote of the United States Congress, this farsighted legislation was signed by President Lyndon Johnson on September 3, 1964, creating the National Wilderness Preservation System. The lands included in this system protect our air, water, and critical habitat for rare and endangered plants and animals. They also offer opportunities to enjoy diverse recreational activities including hiking, backpacking, climbing, kayaking, canoeing, rafting, horse packing, hunting, fishing, and bird watching. Above all, the Wilderness Act mandates opportunities for solitude and simplicity, in recognition of the profound human need to find spiritual refreshment in nature.

2014 also marks the 30th anniversary of the creation of California’s exemplary state wilderness system, which has preserved state lands in a wild condition similarly to federal wilderness, giving us an additional reason for rejoicing.

Here in Redwood Chapter we are particularly blessed with an abundance of protected wilderness: our nine counties contain no fewer than nineteen designated federal wilderness areas, and three that have been named by the State of California. So as our particular contribution to the nationwide celebration of Wilderness 50 organized by the national Club, we decided to prepare a Guidebook to these 21 very special places.

These lands are extraordinarily varied, ranging in size from Trinity Alps at more than a half million acres to the diminutive six-acre Rocks and Islands, and ranging in altitude from sea level to a towering 9000 feet. Some are easy to reach, with trail head parking immediately adjacent to state highways, others can be approached only after long drives on four-wheel forest roads, and one (Rocks and Islands again) can’t be accessed at all. Some are managed by the Forest Service, others by the Bureau of Land Management or California State Parks. Some have a network of developed trails and substantial numbers of visitors, others no trails at all, and hardly any people either. But each is special in its own way, and each merits the highest level of protection offered to any of our public lands.

Copies of the Guidebook will soon be available at the Environmental Center in Santa Rosa for a suggested donation of $5, and arrangements will be made to order copies by mail, phone, and through our website. For details, please check the next issue of the Redwood Needles.

In the meantime, we’re also encouraging Redwood Chapter’s cities and counties to join the Wilderness 50 celebrations by presenting resolutions proclaiming the significance of the wilderness to our land, our nation, and its people. At press time, the Lake County Board of Supervisors had just done exactly that (see the Lake Group report for details and a photo), and we were anticipating opportunities to receive similar proclamations from the Sonoma, Solano and Mendocino counties’ Boards of Supervisors.

Redwood Forest
Courtesy of National Park Service

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