Thursday, October 02, 2014

Urban Youth Gather For Wilderness 50 Celebration

On September 3, 1964, Lyndon Johnson strolled out to the Rose Garden, pressed a pen between his fingers and signed into law the highest level of protection ever afforded the American landscape. "If future generations are to remember us with gratitude rather than contempt," President Johnson said later, "we must leave them something more than the miracles of technology. We must leave them a glimpse of the world as it was in the beginning." On that day, America gained a wilderness preservation system. Initially now protecting over 109 million acres of wild lands from Alaska to Southern California.

On September 27, 2014, fifty years later, over 250 Americans gathered for a Wilderness 50 Celebration in the San Gorgonio Wilderness Area on the San Bernardino National Forest to sign a Proclamation to be given to President Obama and US Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell pledging to support another 50 years of wilderness protection.

Over 250 people pledged to be the next generation of wilderness stewards, especially on the San Bernardino National Forest. “Through our signatures, we want our President and the US Forest Service Chief to know that we are happy that so much land in our Country is still wild”, stated Lorenzo Bettencourt age 16. “ My hope is that if I help keep the wilderness areas clean, 50 years from now I can bring my grandchildren to see wilderness areas just like I did on September 27, 2014 when I was 16” Bettencourt also added.
The signatures were predominately from African American and Latino youth from some of the poorest areas in San Bernardino County. The Proclamation was given to Elwood York, representing the US Forest Service from Washington D.C. to be the holder of the proclamation and the messenger to our Federal Government. (Elwood York)

Among the Wilderness 50 celebration were many key leaders from the U.S. Forest Service including Jodi Noiron, San Bernardino National Forest Supervisor, Gabriel Garcia, Front Country District Ranger, San Bernardino National Forest and Elwood York, US Forest Service Washington D.C. Office, as well as other organizations that help put the Wilderness 50 Celebration together including the San Gorgonio Wilderness Association, San Bernardino County Sheriff Department and the Housing Authority of the County of San Bernardino.

The Wilderness 50 Celebration also included a Wilderness Bus Tour, in which 3 large charter buses carried families and children from San Bernardino Public Housing and members of the Urban Conservation Corps of the Inland Empire, a program of the Southern California Mountains Foundation to participate in a guided bus tour up to the San Gorgonio Wilderness Areas. The bus tour guides were volunteers from the San Gorgonio Wilderness Association.

Unquestionably, the Wilderness 50 Celebration on the San Bernardino National Forest was the largest Wilderness 50th Celebration throughout the Country and indeed was the largest celebration of urban children, youth and their families (many first time visitors). This historic event truly was a celebration of the power of conservation!

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