Saturday, April 11, 2015

Celebrating Wilderness

Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act
Special to Kayak Session, 2014
When American Whitewater was founded 60 years ago, a founding principle included protection of the wilderness character of waterways through conservation of water, forests, parks, wildlife, and related resources. Our founders also sought to promote appreciation and respect for the value of wilderness activity and whitewater sports.
A few years later, on September 3rd, 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Wilderness Act into law, officially establishing the Wilderness Preservation system in the United States "where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain." Over the past five decades, protected wilderness in the United States has grown to nearly 110 million acres. Great whitewater includes classic multi-day trips like the Selway and Salmon Rivers in Idaho; adventures like the South Fork Flathead in Montana, Lost River in Washington, or Chetco in Oregon; and steep creeks like Upper Cherry Creek in California.
Today, most define wilderness as biologically intact areas that are legally protected; the concept has spread beyond the United States and many paddlers have experienced the spectacular rivers of countries like New Zealand and Canada that have have protected their undeveloped river corridors.
One may legitimately ask if wilderness, as an area untouched by man, truly exists on our planet. Air pollution, climate change, and spread of invasive plants to do not respect the lines we draw on a map. For anyone who has ever hiked their boat into a deep wilderness canyon and stood at the top of a challenging rapid contemplating the line, an undeniable fact remains: wilderness areas challenge and inspire us. The protection of these places is important for the planet but also for our soul. And that is something we can all celebrate as we dream of our next adventure deep into the unknown.
Selway River, Idaho