50 Years Wild: Connecting Wild Places
Sawtooth Peak, Trinity Alps Wilderness
Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act, EPIC and conservation partners submitted 50,000 messages from our membership to U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, and to all California National Forest and BLM Supervisors, and elected delegates, asking them to protect and connect wild places.
Signed in 1964 by President Lyndon B. Johnson, the Wilderness Act enables wild lands to be set-aside for permanent preservation and protection. Starting with 9.1 million acres, and now totaling more than 100 million acres, Wild Places are part of our nation’s heritage.
As we take time to celebrate what has been accomplished over the years, it is also important to consider what still needs to be done. Through years of environmental advocacy work in the Pacific Northwest and reviewing current science, we have learned that in this rapidly changing climate, the best thing we can do is protect all remaining old growth and mature trees, and establish a well-connected network of wildlife corridors. These wildlife corridors serve as a link between Wilderness Areas and provide refuge for many rare native plants and animals, and are a source of clean water and air.
Protecting and connecting wild places will create the “Climate Refugia” essential for species survival.
A majority of wildlife corridors, managed by the US Forest Service (USFS) within California’s’ 18 national forests remain unprotected and open to multiple threats, including logging, fire suppression and road building. Northern California forests are some of the most carbon dense forests on the planet, with the largest oldest trees storing the greatest amounts of carbon and playing a major role in regulating the Earth’s climate. The main reason for the current global mass extinction rate is habitat loss. Well over half of California’s fish, amphibians and mammals and nearly half of all birds and reptiles are “at-risk.”
California offers an amazing opportunity to establish an interconnected intact landscape, especially in the Pacific Northwest. The state’s 53 Wilderness Areas, mostly high elevation, 25 national and 270 state parks and beaches offer islands of refuge for wildlife. Roadless Areas, rivers and ridges that contain vital lower elevation cool carbon dense forests are passageways that allow wildlife to move freely to search for food, find a mate, migrate, to keep genetic diversity strong and to seek refuge in response to climate adaption.
Global warming and human impacts on the landscape threaten our and come with devastating ecological costs to current and future generations, but we know what needs to be done to in order to prevent further degradation. It is time to enact policy and implement climate adaption strategies. Our leaders in office and in forest, fish and wildlife management need to make a major shift in policy and practice to conserve our quality of life, wildlife and wild places.
EPIC and Klamath Forest Alliance are building a campaign called Connecting Wild Places to tackle this challenge head on seeking to:
Safeguard all remaining older forests;
Create a well-connected landscape; and
Reform antiquated resource extraction practices.
In order to raise awareness of the campaign, build alliances with other advocacy groups, and generate support from elected officials it takes tremendous amounts of energy and resources.There are many ways you can help:
Lend your time as a volunteer. We need graphic designers, artists, writers, networkers and motivated caring people to help build this grassroots campaign.
We must never lose sight of the importance of wilderness and wild places, and with that in mind we are appealing to you to join us in pursuing a more interconnected, protected, and climate resilient future. Let us say thank you to the generations before us for having the foresight to leave America a legacy we can all be proud of. Happy 50th Anniversary to the Wilderness Act!