Twenty-five years ago the Wilderness Act was enacted to protect for posterity those lands "affected primarily by the forces of nature, with the imprint of man's work substantially unnoticeable." As such places become more and more rare, the wisdom of the authors and supporters of the National Wilderness Preservation System seems visionary.
On Sept. 28, 1984, President Reagan signed the Utah Wilderness Act, adding 750,000 acres in 14 areas to the national system. Twelve of these areas are administered by the U.S. Forest Service, and two _ Paria Canyon and Beaver Dam Mountains _ are administered by the Bureau of Land Management. Utah's first wilderness area, Lone Peak, southeast of Salt Lake City, was designated in 1977.On this, the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Wilderness Act and the fifth birthday of the Utah Wilderness Act, there are 90 million acres of wilderness in 474 areas across the country _ a mere 4 percent of the nation's land. The United States is still the only nation to have had the foresight to formally protect its wilderness.
In the words of Clinton Anderson, co-sponsor of the 1964 Wilderness Act, "Wilderness is an anchor to windward. Knowing it is there, we can also know that we are still a rich nation, tending our resources as we should _ not a people in despair searching every last nook and cranny of our land for a board of lumber, a barrel of oil, a blade of grass or a tank of water."
The wilderness areas in Utah:
The High Uintas Wilderness (460,000 acres; Wasatch and Ashley national forests; the range runs from Kamas to Vernal): The flagship of Utah's wilderness. A half dozen peaks surpass 13,000 feet (King's Peak, at 13,528 feet, is Utah's pinnacle); massive glacial basins, dozens of lakes, hundreds of miles of streams. Dense forests harbor goshawks, black bear and Utah's largest elk and moose herds. Bighorn sheep, lynx, wolverine, pine marten and three-fourths of Utah's bird species are found here. Source of a large proportion of Utah's in-state water, the Uintas are a highlight of the system. Citizens still recommend that an additional 200,000 acres of the range be added as wilderness.
Mount Nebo Wilderness (28,000 acres, Uinta National Forest, east of Nephi): This critical watershed hosts the highest peak in the Wasatch. Mountain goats inhabit the steep, spectacular Nebo country; the west slope is important elk winter range.
Ashdown Gorge Wilderness (7,000 acres; Dixie National Forest, east of Cedar City): A rugged region of stunning rock formation adjacent to Cedar Breaks National Monument.
Mount Timpanogos Wilderness (10,750 acres; Uinta National Forest, east of Pleasant Grove): Classic alpine country _ hanging valleys, waterfalls, large glacial cirques.
Box-Death Hollow Wilderness (26,000 acres; Dixie National Forest, north of Escalante): High elevation, convoluted, slickrock country. Headwaters of the Escalante River and northern tip of a massive 400,000-acre Escalante Wilderness proposal.
Pine Valley Mountains Wilderness (50,000 acres; Dixie National Forest, southwest of Cedar City): Diverse and isolated range at the hub of three physiographic provinces _ the Great Basin, Colorado Plateau and Sonoran Desert. Bristlecone pine, cougar and the rare Abert squirrel thrive in this volcanic range.
Deseret Peak Wilderness (25,500 acres; Wasatch National Forest, west of Grantsville): Small basins, perennial streams, aspen and limber pine highlight this 11,000-foot region. Adding adjacent wild BLM and Forest Service lands should double this wilderness area.
Dark Canyon Wilderness (45,000 acres; Manti-LaSal National Forest, west of Monticello): Home of peregrine falcons, cougar, desert bighorn sheep and a wealth of archaeological treasures. Dark Canyon comprises over 100,000 acres of the wildest country in the lower 48 when combined with the BLM's adjacent Dark Canyon Primitive Area and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.
Twin Peaks Wilderness (13,100 acres; Wasatch National Forest, southeast of Salt Lake City): This granite alpine country north of Lone Peak hosts Twin and Dromedary peaks, mountain goats and golden eagles.
Mount Naomi Wilderness (44,350 acres; Wasatch/
Cache National Forest, east of Logan): Rugged, step terrain dotted with limestone sinks and parklands. Important elk and moose habitat.
Wellsville Mountains Wilderness (23,847 acres; Wasatch/Cache National Forest, between Wellsville and Brigham City): The razor ridge of this phenomenally steep range is crossed annually by one of the largest migrations of birds of prey in the western United States.
Mount Olympus Wilderness (16,000 acres; Wasatch National Forest, southeast of Salt Lake City): Paramount watershed for Salt Lake City, this rugged, highly scenic landmark is dominated by Mount Olympus, Gobbler's Knob and Mount Raymond.