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Anniversary of Wilderness Act Offers Opportunities for MO

PHOTO: The Big Spring area, which lies within the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, could become the ninth federally protected wilderness area in Missouri, if Congress designates it as such. Photo courtesy of National Park Service.
PHOTO: The Big Spring area, which lies within the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, could become the ninth federally protected wilderness area in Missouri, if Congress designates it as such. Photo courtesy of National Park Service.
September 3, 2014

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - It's been a busy and productive half-century for the federal Wilderness Act, and environmentalists say today's anniversary of the signing of the landmark legislation offers a chance to protect more Missouri land for future generations.

Thanks to the Wilderness Act, said John Hickey, director of the a href="http://missouri2.sierraclub.org" target="parent">Missouri chapter of the Sierra Club, 100 million acres of land nationwide now are protected as wilderness, including eight different areas in Missouri.

"You can't build roads through it, you can't run motorized vehicles like ATVs through it, but you can continue to do other traditional activities," he said. "You can hike, you can camp, you can ride horses, you can hunt, you can fish."

Hickey said the National Park Service is in the process of deciding whether to add 3,500 acres of the Big Spring area within the Ozark National Scenic Riverways to the land it manages as wilderness. However, he added that permanently protecting those lands with a wilderness designation requires an act of Congress.

Hickey said he hopes Missourians will see the value in coming together to voice support for another wilderness area in the state.

"Here we have a pristine part of Missouri that we can protect, but it's really going to take citizens getting involved to do that," he said, "just like 50 years ago citizens across the country got involved to pass the original Wilderness Act in 1964."

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Federal Wilderness Act, Hickey said, the Sierra Club is hosting a traveling exhibit of photos from the state's eight current wilderness-designated areas, and also leads hikes and tours of those areas regularly.

More information is online at missouri2.sierraclub.org.

Mona Shand, Public News Service - MO