This week celebrates the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Wilderness Act (Act) signed by Lyndon Johnson in 1964 to provide protected places of solace away from the noise, hustle, pollution and mechanization of modern life. Wilderness areas are the nation's best reminder of the untrammeled open spaces that existed before the arrival of the first European settlers. No roads, vehicles or permanent structures are allowed in these areas and logging, mining and motorized travel are prohibited. A wilderness area designation is the highest level of protection the federal government can bestow on any lands.

The Act created the National Wilderness Preservation System originally establishing 54 wilderness areas in 13 states. Today there are 758 wilderness areas in 44 states and Puerto Rico. Approximately 5% of the United States land mass is protected as wilderness areas or about 109,511,038 acres.

Upon signing the Act 50 years ago, President Johnson initiated a call to action that remains equally important today: "To the pioneer of history, the wilderness was a foe to be conquered. Today's pioneer has a new purpose to preserve some remnants of that wilderness from the onrush of modern civilization."

Learn more about Wilderness Week and activities scheduled in Washington, D.C. and throughout the U.S. at http://www.wilderness50th.org/wildernessweek.php