By John Wallin
I started selling fleece for Patagonia in 1993, and for six years I worked in Washington D.C., Bozeman and Reno in various customer service functions. I had a blast, learned a ton about product and people and made a network of friends who are as important to me as my college cohorts. During this time, I also began to see myself as a wilderness activist.
The Wilderness Act turns 50 this week and provides a welcome opportunity to reflect on a uniquely American innovation. The idea, novel at the time, that our wild lands are special and worthy of protection, is embedded in the language of the Act: “A wilderness… is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” And more than almost any other law I can think of, the Wilderness Act has proved an adaptable tool for citizens to act as true patriots in the defense of their land. To date, more than 109 million acres have been protected in perpetuity as wilderness, which sounds like a lot, but in reality is only about 5% of the United States.
Above: Camping along the Marsh Fork of the Canning River, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska. All photos by Ron Hunter