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General NewsInto the wilderness

November 1, 2014

Happy 50th birthday to the Wilderness Act. In 1964, Congress set aside some public lands as wilderness. By law people can visit these wild places to hike, climb, or ride bicycles, but they cannot change them in any way. This means no roads, houses, or motor vehicles.

At the start, 54 places (9.1 million acres) became wilderness areas. Today 758 places (over 109 million acres) are part of the National Wilderness Preservation System. Alaska has the most wilderness land, 57,000,000 acres. Washington, by contrast, has 4,463,093 acres.

Washington has 31 wilderness areas. They include popular places like Mt. Rainier, Mt. Adams and Mt. Baker. San Juan Islands National Wildlife Refuge is the smallest. People can see birds there. The largest is the Olympic Wilderness with Hoh Rainforest and Mt. Olympus.

This year 44 states are celebrating their wilderness areas. Special programs are teaching people about nature in the wild.

To see a story map of wilderness areas in the U.S. click here.

Published November 2014

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