The Wilderness Act of 1964 was a turning point in the conservation movement. This legislation originally set aside 9 million acres of wilderness for the enjoyment of present and future generations. Today, more than 107 million acres are under the management of Federal land management agencies.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is responsible for nearly 35% of the National Wilderness Preservation System. Ten years ago, the Wilderness Stewardship Challenge was implemented in an attempt to maintain and increase the wilderness character of these lands to ensure they may stay wild forever. Ten key elements were identified to help define successful wilderness character and strategies were prescribed in order to help managers implement the Wilderness Stewardship Challenge. Initially, only about 20 percent of all wildernesses managed by the USDA Forest Service met even the minimum stewardship level which is defined as achieving success in 6 out of those 10 elements. Our goal is to meet all ten elements by the end of the decade-long Challenge which ends this year– the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act.
Managers of the Snow Mountain Wilderness located within the Mendocino National Forest have focused on two of these elements for this year: ensuring that invasive species (particularly plants) are successfully treated and the implementation of a successful wilderness education plan. This summer, surveys of noxious invasive species are continuing to be conducted along trails and roads within the Snow Mountain Wilderness in order to plan removal projects with employees and volunteers. Also, we plan to continue implementing a wilderness education plan developed for our Forest in 2012. Our goal is to teach employees, volunteers, and the general public about the importance of our Wilderness, its ecological role, and proper use of its resources in hopes of instilling effective and effcient habits which will maintain and protect this majestic wild land. It is our hope that these two elements will go hand-in-hand since many invasive species are brought in and spread by human activities within the Wilderness.
How can you help? We hope to attract volunteers to help survey and remove invasive species along our trails within the Wilderness this summer. You can get more information about this project by contacting me, Joshua Hamrick – Student Conservation Association intern/AmeriCorps member for the Mendocino National Forest – at my email firstname.lastname@example.org. I am also available to come speak with your group about our other goal, wilderness education. We at the Forest Service want to encourage sustainable use of our Nation’s wildernesses and it is our pleasure to discuss available resources and proper habits with you in order to keep our wildernesses wild forever.