On June 3, 1924 the U.S. Forest Service did something quite remarkable

Aerial view of the Gila Wilderness and Gila River in New Mexico. Photo by Adriel Heisey.

The following guest post was written by WildEarth Guardians’ John Horning. – mk

I once looked at a map showing the United States at night. Lights lit up the coasts and our massive cities across the hinterlands. Though my eyes were attracted to the energy of the lights, they eventually settled on the blank spots on the map.

One of those large, blank spots was the Greater Gila of southwestern New Mexico and southeastern Arizona, which is home to some of the last, best, wild—but still largely unprotected—public lands in the continental United States.

It’s also home to the Gila Wilderness—America’s first designated wilderness.

We celebrate the Greater Gila on this day because 98 years ago, on June 3, 1924 the U.S. Forest Service did something quite remarkable. Based on ancient and emerging wisdom at the time, it chose to exercise restraint and allow wild country to be wild.

We chose to celebrate the Gila and its looming centennial by creating an anthology of essays that capture why the Greater Gila is so loved and so deserving of even stronger protection. First & Wildest: The Gila Wilderness at 100 has been a great collaboration between Guardians, Torrey House Press, our editor Elizabeth Hightower Allen, and the many inspired writers who love the Gila.

I encourage you to order a copy of the book right here. And as a bonus, Torrey House Press is generously donating 20% of all book sales to WildEarth Guardians through June 10. Just use promo code “WILD” at checkout. Need more inspiration? Watch this film trailer that captures the spirit of the book.

If the Greater Gila is to endure, and life as we know it is to survive the compounding climate and biodiversity crises, we must continue to think boldly, celebrate wildly, and collaborate deeply.

If you love the Greater Gila—or want to fall in love with the Greater Gila for the first time—please buy the book and then join Guardians’ campaign to protect all that we love.

John Horning is the executive director of WildEarth Guardians. He writes from Santa Fe. 

3 thoughts on “On June 3, 1924 the U.S. Forest Service did something quite remarkable”

  1. Was that done under the “U” Regulations? I believe that’s a tool that Bob Marshall (the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area) helped to establish and use to protect wild areas well before the Wilderness Act came along. Marshall and some others in the agency were forward looking and anticipated the importance of keeping some areas wild.
    If you want a good, in-depth book on the wilderness concept I encourage you to look for Roderick Nash’s, Wilderness and the American Mind. Very well documented book by a historian.

    • Patrick, nothing is a paid advertisement at TSW, I can safely say (!!!). As a contributor, Matthew gets to post what he thinks is interesting. Sometimes that is likely to overlap, to some degree, with what I understand to be his day job at Wild Earth Guardians.

      I’d like book reviews (preferably by TSW members) to be more frequent at TSW, and I’d like to encourage readers to submit reviews on topics of interest.


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