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Wilderness Act Observes 45th Anniversary - A Big Year for S. Dak.

September 3, 2009

Pierre, SD - Today marks the 45th anniversary of the signing of the Wilderness Act, and for South Dakota, this year holds promise that more wild lands will be preserved under the law. More than 100 million acres are preserved across the nation under the Act.

Chris Hesla, executive director of the South Dakota Wildlife Federation, says the state currently has one wilderness area in the Black Hills, and with Congressional approval, could add more this year in the Buffalo Gap National Grasslands.

"We aren't making any more land, so it's the last of its type. If we do get that done here in South Dakota, it would be the first wilderness on national grasslands in the nation. We're kind of excited. We've been working on it for nine years and I think we're going to see some movement this fall towards some legislation on it."

Mike Matz, executive director of the Campaign for America's Wilderness, says wilderness areas are usually recreation hot spots that are also ideal for wildlife and fish habitat.

"We've managed through the wilderness designation, to set aside almost five percent of the U.S, land mass. It would be nice if we could get that up to 10 percent."

A new South Dakota wilderness designation would preserve nearly 50,000 acres in the southwest part of the state, and, although the idea has met with some resistance from land owners who say the land doesn't need protection, supporters say the wilderness designation would leave a lasting legacy for future generations.


David Law, Public News Service - SD