It’s never been disputed that the 1960s was a time of change. Amidst a rapidly changing political landscape, the actual landscape of the nation was experiencing transformation as well—a devastating one. Urbanization and the development of highway systems spelled out deforestation for much of the United State’s remaining wilderness. After some urging by congress, U.S. President and Texas State alumnus Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Wilderness Act of 1964, protecting millions of acres of wild lands from the reaching arm of urbanization. In this outline for my news editor, I explain how I would cover an anniversary piece on the Act, utilizing first-person sources, photos and articles.

 

Why the Act Was Called For

For the introductory graf, I would advise my editor to include the events that led to the Wilderness Act’s proposal. Through my research based primarily on congressional transcripts and original articles from the late 1950s, I discovered that the act was first proposed as a response to the ever-growing concern of deforestation due to the rapidly developing interstate transportation system. Extensive railway systems and highways were threatening to destroy much of what was already considered to be a deteriorating environment. My grandfather, Dallas Moore, a rancher in the El Paso area beginning in the late 50s, said he himself witnessed the landscape changing with each passing year to make room for easier freight shipments to and from Mexico.

 

What the Act Entailed

Next, I would describe in detail exactly what the Wilderness Act did for the nation. According to a New York Times editorial piece in September 2014, the Act was designed to “preserve the remaining wild places from any form of development, providing the highest level of protection accorded any federal lands.” The article said when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the act in 1964, it initially protected 9 million acres. Since then, it has been amended to protect about 100 million more, many of which were turned into recreational areas by individual states.

 

What It Means for Today

Finally, I plan to draw parallels to modern-day environmental concerns and — perhaps more importantly — congressional bipartisanship like that shown in 1964. According to transcripts from 2011 executive orders, President Obama is making strides toward dedicating new monuments and parcels of land to states for recreational use and protection. Additionally, Congress is stalling about the fate of several environmentally important acts, including allocation of the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The New York Times estimates that the United States is losing about 6,000 acres of land per day while Congress delays action.

36th President Johnson signed the Wilderness Act just a year into his presidency in 1964 | Photo courtesy of the White House commons, photographer unknown.

36th President Johnson signed the Wilderness Act just a year into his presidency in 1964 | Photo courtesy of the White House commons, photographer unknown.

 

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