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Smithsonian Celebrates 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act [10 photos]

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The Wilderness Act of 1964 marked a historic moment for the American environmental movement: for the first time, land was set-aside for the specific purpose of protecting it from the reach of mankind. The landmark act created the National Wilderness Preservation System, a nationwide system of federally protected lands known as wilderness areas. Today there are 758 wilderness areas across 44 states and Puerto Rico. Together, they represent over 109 million acres, or about 5 percent of all U.S. land.

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History will open the photography exhibition, Wilderness Forever: 50 Years of Protecting America’s Wild Places, which runs through summer 2015. The exhibition opens on September 3, 2014 to coincide with the anniversary. In conjunction with the opening of the exhibition, Smithsonian.com will be launching a photo contest and exhibition website at Wilderness.Smithsonian.com.

Each month, visitors to Wilderness.Smithsonian.com will be able to view all 60 photo finalists and vote to select their favorite. The photograph with the most votes will be featured daily and monthly.

1. Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska

3 DeeAnnPederson RedFoxDenali AK

© Dee Ann Pederson, Houston, Texas, USA

A Red Fox frolicking in the fall colors of Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska.

2. Three Sisters Wilderness, Oregon

23 ThomasGoebel StudentWinner ProxyFalls OR

© Thomas Goebel, Jensen Beach, Florida, USA

Proxy Falls cascade down towards the moss-covered forest of Three Sisters Wilderness in Oregon

3. Katmai National Park and Preserve, Alaska

10 RobertAmoruso BrownBear AK

© Robert Amoruso, Orlando, Florida, USA

A brown bear found in Katmai National Park and Preserve in Alaska holds a freshly caught salmon in its mouth.

4. Alaska Range, Alaska

44 TimAiken StudentWinner AlaskaRange AK

© Tim Aiken, Stanford, California, USA

Wintry peaks of the Alaska Range are reflected in a pristine pool of water in the high tundra.

5. Mount Evans, Colorado

7 VerdonTomajko AmWinner MountainGoats CO

© Verdon Tomajko, Superior, Colorado, USA

A herd of mountain goats huddle together on top of Mount Evans, Colorado during a lightning storm.

6. Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, Arizona

13 RichardAnsley WhitePocket AZ

© Richard Ansley, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA

Colorful twisted petrified sand dunes of White Pocket tower over Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness in Arizona.

7. Otis Pike Fire Island High Dune Wilderness Area, New York

8 ScottDere SnowyOwl NY

© Scott Joshua Dere, Cedarhurst, New York, USA

An adult male Snowy Owl, wide awake at the day’s first light in Otis Pike Fire Island High Dune Wilderness Area, New York.

8. Olympic Wilderness, Washington

37 PabloMcLoud Trail Olympic WA

© Pablo McLoud, Honokaa, Hawaii, USA

An inviting path winds around the Aurora Ridge Trail in Sol Duc Valley, Olympic Wilderness, Washington.

9. Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, Minnesota

34 DawnLaPointe AmWinner BoundaryWaters MN

© Dawn M. LaPointe, Hermantown, Minnesota, USA

A lone paddler watches the sun set upon the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, Minnesota.

10. Olympic Wilderness, Washington

42 JoeLeFevre  ProWinner MilkyWay OR

© Joe LeFevre, Oswego, New York, USA

The Milky Way sparkles over Second Beach in the Olympic Wilderness, Washington.

These photo were selected out of more than 5,000 entries to go on display in
Wilderness Forever: 50 Years of Protecting America’s Wild Places, a new photo exhibition at
the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, which will run through summer 2015.