Fifty years ago, on Sept. 3, 1964, President Lyndon Johnson signed into law the Wilderness Act. The law established a National Wilderness Preservation System, along with a process for Congress to identify and preserve more wilderness areas in the future.
In my opinion, the Wilderness Act is one of most significant and beautiful legislative actions in the history of this country. It ranks right up there with the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, The Social Security Act and the 19th Constitutional Amendment giving women the right to vote.
The act is unusually poetic for legal language, including this much quoted definition of wilderness: “A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.”
The use of the obscure word “untrammeled” was deliberate. It has a precise definition of: “not deprived of freedom of action or expression; not restricted or hampered.”
The 1964 Wilderness Act included the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, a big chunk of which is located right here in Cook County. Interestingly, the act contains many management exceptions for the BWCA, including continued motor use and logging, reflecting the political climate in Minnesota at that time.
Since 1964, the National Wilderness Preservation System has grown from 54 wilderness areas totaling 9.1 million acres to 758 wilderness areas comprising more than 109 million acres. In 1978, the BWCA Wilderness Act removed all logging and most of the motorized use from our local wilderness.
The Wilderness Act created a lot of controversy in the West End back in the day, but now it has become a welcome and treasured part of our local economy and lifestyle.
My hat is off to the men and women who early on recognized the need to protect wilderness areas and those who continue to work hard to protect and expand wilderness across this beautiful country of ours.
Speaking of modern day wilderness defenders, Lutsen’s own Amy and Dave Freeman are off on another big adventure in an effort to raise the public’s awareness of the value of wilderness.
They are paddling and sailing 2,000 miles from Ely to Washington, D. C. where they will present a petition to the Obama administration in opposition to the proposed mining projects near the BWCA Wilderness and the Lake Superior watershed.
The Freemans will be featured speakers at the Lake Superior Wilderness Conference in Duluth on Sept. 5 and 6. The Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute at Northland College in Ashland, Wisc. sponsors the conference, which will be held at the Inn on Lake Superior in Duluth. The conference is dedicated to Sigurd Olson, who was one of Minnesota’s most prominent advocates for wilderness preservation.
You can find information and registration information on the web by searching for “wilderness conference in Duluth” or contact WTIP for full contact information.
Ted and Marcella Jensen were Silver Bay residents who came to the town when Reserve Mining built a taconite plant there in the 1950s. They were active in the community, especially in the welfare of children. They had many foster children as well as their own four children. I knew them because they camped for many weeks each summer in the Sawbill Campground, especially in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Their son, Hawk, is one of my dearest friends to this day.
Ted died a number of years ago, but Marcella just passed away a couple of weeks ago. Even though they were like second parents to me as I grew up, I have to think a moment to remember their first names. The reason is that they were called “Ma” and “Pa” Jensen by virtually everyone.
I spent many happy days at their house in Silver Bay, which was always a hub of activity for every kid in town. Ma kept a freezer full of frozen pizzas, so when you arrived at her house you were immediately fed, made to feel loved, closely questioned and carefully steered to the straight and narrow. She was one of those amazing people who accepted everyone as inherently good. In her eyes only the behavior could be bad – never the person.
Her memorial wishes were that anyone who knew her should buy themselves flowers, a good mystery novel or a puzzle in her memory. She also asked that her family gather at the Sawbill Lake Campground in a couple of weeks to share memories and honor the life of a woman who spent so many happy days here.
She was 91 years old when she died and will be missed by many, many people.