The Wilderness Act of 1964 marked a historic moment for the American environmental movement: for the first time, land was set-aside for the specific purpose of protecting it from the reach of mankind. The landmark act created the National Wilderness Preservation System, a nationwide system of federally protected lands known as wilderness areas. Today there are 758 wilderness areas across 44 states and Puerto Rico. Together, they represent over 109 million acres, or about 5 percent of all U.S. land.
To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History will open the photography exhibition, Wilderness Forever: 50 Years of Protecting America’s Wild Places, which runs through summer 2015. The exhibition opens on September 3, 2014 to coincide with the anniversary. In conjunction with the opening of the exhibition, Smithsonian.com will be launching a photo contest and exhibition website at
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