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SUNY Plattsburgh, Clinton Community College Team Up for Wilderness Act Commemoration

SUNY Plattsburgh, in cooperation with Clinton Community College and the Rockefeller Institute of Government, will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act with a series of lectures and events Sept. 22-27.

The National Wilderness Act was signed into being by President Lyndon Johnson Sept. 3, 1964. The Act created the National Wilderness Preservation System, which at the time comprised 9.1 million acres of national forest wilderness in the United States. Today, the area designated by the act totals more than 109 million acres of federally owned land in 44 states, or roughly five percent of the land in the country.

New York is distinguished from other states because of its own Forever Wild legislation, signed into law Jan. 1, 1895 after gaining voter approval in 1894. New York’s Forever Wild legislation, and the Adirondack Park in particular, served as inspiration for the National Wilderness Act. Howard Zahniser wrote the federal legislation in his Adirondack cabin near Johnsburg.

Speakers, Films Featured Throughout Week

The lecture series will feature such speakers as Dave Gibson and Dan Plumley from Adirondack Wild, Chris Maron from Champlain Area Trails, and Tom Butler from the Northeast Wilderness Trust giving the keynote address. Documentaries such as the award-winning “Forever Wild,” and “The Resilient Ones: A Generation Takes on Climate Change” and a visit to Twin Valleys Outdoor Education and Recreation Center in Lewis, NY with outdoor guide and wilderness advocate Elizabeth Lee are also on the agenda.

The two North Country colleges are co-hosting these events as part of a statewide effort to commemorate the anniversary of the signing of the act, said Dr. Jacob Straub, assistant professor, Center for Earth and Environmental Science. President John Ettling solicited interest from faculty, and the Center for Earth and Environmental Science “jumped at it,” Straub said. “We knew it would be a great opportunity to educate and inspire our students and the community about the wilderness.

“This week and the anniversary is, in the very simplest of terms, an opportunity to reflect on what the term wilderness means to you,” Straub said. “It’s an opportunity to learn about the history of wilderness land conservation and hopefully gain a deeper appreciation of the role New Yorkers played.”

Committee Brainstormed Ideas

Straub said the line-up of events is a conglomeration of ideas from an ad-hoc committee.

“The line-up of events is something that we are very proud of,” he said. “We decided to bring together as many as possible. There should be something for everyone.”

Indeed, Gibson and Plumley will speak on “The History of Wilderness Management in the Adirondacks” Monday, Sept. 22 beginning at noon in the Stafford Auditorium, Clinton Community College. Maron will address “Maintaining Connectivity by Saving Land and Making Trails” Wednesday, Sept. 24 at noon at the Stafford Auditorium, and Butler will speak on “Wilderness for the 21st Century: Spiritual Resource and Arena of Evolution” beginning at 4 p.m. in the Krinovitz Recital Hall in Hawkins Hall on the SUNY Plattsburgh campus.

Films at 30 City, Downtown Plattsburgh

“And although the ‘Resilient Ones’ is not necessarily Wilderness-themed, it will touch on some more contemporary threats to our local, regional and global environment. To my knowledge, this will be one of the first showings of this film about how young people can make a lasting impact on our climate.”

The two films will be shown at 30 City, the City of Plattsburgh’s downtown and community center at 30 City Hall Place, beginning at 8 p.m. Sept. 23 and 26, respectively.

The Twin Valleys event begins Saturday, Sept. 27 at 1 p.m. Reservations are required for this free event and may be made either by contacting Straub at [email protected].

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