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Howard Zahniser

April 13, 2010

One of the first legends that a person learns about after getting involved in wilderness work is Howard Zahniser.  In my case, I was lucky enough to have learned about Zahniser in a couple of sit-down sessions with Doug Scott, who himself has some pretty daunting credentials in the wilderness movement.  Doug’s stories about Wilderness Act’s passage stoked my curiosity about “Zahnie” and ever since, I’ve read stuff about him whenever I ran across it.

Therefore I was delighted when Becky Leas sent me the following YouTube links of Zahniser rehearsing his “Wilderness Forever” speech, which, for those in wilderness work is akin to sitting in on the dress rehearsal for the Sermon on the Mount.  So I pass this intelligence along:

The audio of Tionesta, Pennsylvania native and The Wilderness Society chief Howard Zahniser rehearsing his famous 1961 “Wilderness Forever” speech that lays out many of the principles of American conservationism expressed in the Wilderness Act of 1964 — of which Zahniser is considered the principle author — has been placed online on YouTube!

According to Howard Zahniser’s son Ed, between listening to this speech, and Zahniser’s “The Need for Wilderness Areas” piece, one can learn most of what he thought wilderness was all about.

This audio is of Howard Zahniser practicing the speech — which he later famously gave to the Sierra Club’s seventh biennial wilderness conference in San Francisco in April of 1961 — in his Wilderness Society office at 2144 P Street NW in Washington , D.C.

The Wilderness Act was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson on September 3, 1964. The Wilderness Act established the legal definition of wilderness in the United States , and permanently protected some 9 million acres of national forest land. It also established a mechanism by which ordinary citizens could encourage their federal legislators to add deserving areas to America ‘s National Wilderness Preservation System. Through the passage of more than 140 additional laws since 1964, the National Wilderness Preservation System has now grown to nearly 110 million acres!

Wilderness Forever, Part 1:

Wilderness Forever, Part 2:

Wilderness Forever, Part 3:

— Margadant  [And also, thanks to the Friends of Allegheny Wilderness for initially passing this along.]

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