On our staff backpacking trip last August, we had climbed and climbed and climbed up from Johnson Lake in the Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness. My flatlander’s lungs were gasping, and my leaden legs were dragging. Finally, though, we reached Rainbow Pass, elevation 9,250 feet, right on the Continental Divide. The view was magnificent. Johnson Lake lay about 1,600 feet below us. Patches of forest covered some slopes. We could see where fires had been allowed to burn because of the area’s wilderness designation, renewing the forests as fires have done for millennia. A few mountain goats clung to incredibly steep spots high up along the crest. Far to the west, some 40 or 50 miles as the raven flies, we could see the peaks of the Bitterroot Mountains in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness. We were surrounded by wildness, mysteries, and insights into this truly wild Wilderness. We finally reluctantly left this magical spot, turned east, and began our descent to Rainbow Lake.
--Kevin Proescholdt, Conservation Director
Fifty-five years ago this past fall, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Wilderness Act into law, designating nine million acres of Wilderness in 13 states. Both the Anaconda-Pintler and the Selway-Bitterroot were among the original Wildernesses designated. Our Wilderness system has since grown to more than 111 million acres in 44 states.
We heed the words of the Wilderness Act’s chief author, Howard Zahniser, who declared, “We must allow nothing to alter the wilderness character of the preserves.” Designating a Wilderness, unfortunately, does not guarantee its protection, so we find the work to safeguard Wilderness is still far from over.
For 30 years, Wilderness Watch has worked day in and day out to defend our irreplaceable National Wilderness Preservation System, and our work is needed now more than ever. We will never give up fighting for Wilderness, and with your help, we will prevail.