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Wilderness with a capital ‘W’

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By Pam Darty

In 1964, Congress “got it”.  Our nation’s leaders were making intelligent, selfless decisions that advanced the condition of America.  President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act on July 2, 1964; prohibiting discrimination in public places, providing for the integration of schools and other public facilities and making employment discrimination illegal. Then on Sept. 3, for all the American people and wildlife for generations to come, public lands were put aside to remain forever wild by the Wilderness Act. 

This year, conservations agencies across the country will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act and its many varied benefits to our nation’s people. National Geographic and many other publications will feature America’s Wilderness.  Locally, films about the inception of wilderness and the Wilderness Act will be co-hosted by Cedar Key Library and the Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge each month from January through April. Check www.fws.gov/cedarkeys  for showings of “Green Fire:  Aldo Leopold and a Land Ethic for Our Times” and “Wild by Law,” both incredibly inspiring.

March 3, six months before the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, an exclusive Ranger-led paddle will allow the first 20 registrants, accompanied by the Ranger, to enter one of the three Wilderness islands of Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge, North Key. The island interiors are normally closed to the public for the protection of the wildlife; this will be the one-time opportunity to step into part of America’s designated Wilderness.  Reservations can be made starting Feb. 14 by calling 352-493-0238, extension 223; leave your contact information and your call will be returned the following week.

City dwellers might think that being out in the woods, away from cell phone reception, no lights on the highways, or no gas station nearby is wilderness. The fact is that Wilderness-character must remain as it has always been - wild.  If there is a fire, no machines may be used to extinguish it.  If there are trees down, only a saw or an axe may be used. No roads may be built; only hand tools may be used. At times, these regulations make maintaining wilderness difficult; Mother Nature is to be the ruling force in wilderness, not machine, nor human.

Go to www.wilderness.net to learn and see more about our gift to ourselves: America’s Wilderness. Know that your National Wildlife Refuges protect public lands and wildlife for you and generations to come. If your community library or civic group would like a showing of these films, contact the Ranger at 352-493-0238, ext 223.