Activists celebrate Wilderness Act

Emily Lau
Staff Writer

Environment enthusiasts and federal wilderness agencies celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act by providing information about wilderness awareness at the Wilderness Fair and participating in the Walk for the Wild at the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden in Claremont on Saturday.

The botanic garden and California Wilderness Coalition collaborated along with some federal wilderness agencies to hold the celebration, which consisted of the Wilderness Fair and Walk for the Wild. This was the first wilderness fair held at the botanic garden.

“There have been celebrations all over the country all year and this is the largest celebration in Southern California,” said Monica Argandoña, anthropology department associate at the University of La Verne and Southern California conservation director for the California Wilderness Coalition. “We work solely on wilderness designation and protection in the state of California, so this is kind of our celebration directly.”

The fair was open to the public from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and different organizations such as local environmental groups and U.S. Forest Service representatives were present.

Each organization displayed its informational or activity booth related to environmental awareness and conservation. A display taught visitors about different pinecones and animal pelts while another allowed participants to cut a section of the log to keep as a souvenir with a crosscut saw.

Federal wilderness agencies such as the Bureau of Land Management and Angeles National Forest U.S. Forest Service were available for questions about their efforts towards environmental conservation.

The walk began at 9 a.m. and required registration and a fee to participate. More than 200 people registered for the 1.5 mile walk through the different areas of the botanic garden.

There were multiple stations along the route that highlighted particular wilderness areas to provide walkers with more information about the Wilder­ness Act and the “Leave No Trace Principles,” which are seven outdoor ethic codes that promote wilderness protection.

Walkers roamed around the California plant communities which showcased many of California’s native trees such as the Joshua tree and California fan palms.

“We’ve had a lot of different people come in with their parents and families,” said Abigail Ames, admissions worker at the botanic garden. “This (event) is different because it’s celebrating the wilderness and the important act that protects it.”

Visitors also bought food from food trucks and beer from beer garden sponsors while they enjoyed live music and entertainment. Some participated in a wilderness photography contest for a chance to win camping supplies.

The Wilderness Act was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on Sept. 3, 1964, which created a legal definition of wilderness and placed more than 9 million acres of land under the protection of the National Wilderness Preserva­tion System. Since then, the United States has added more than 100 million acres to the protection list.

“The Wilderness Act is the highest form of protection that land can get in a country,” said Naomi Fraga, conservation botanist at the botanic garden. “It protects wildlife, plants and other resources and so we’re celebrating that we have wilderness which is really great.”

Emily Lau can be reached at emily.lau@laverne.edu.

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