Ottawa Forest to host ‘Wilderness’ celebration Saturday

WATERSMEET -This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, and the U.S. Forest Service is inviting the public to a special celebration Saturday at the Ottawa National Forest Visitor Center in Watersmeet.

Signed by President Lyndon Johnson in 1964, the Wilderness Act established the National Wilderness Preservation System, and designated the first federal Wilderness Areas. Wilderness designation protects some of the most pristine area in the United States for future generations.

The local celebration will feature a variety of indoor and outdoor opportunities. Events begin at 9 a.m. (Central time) and continue to 6 p.m.

Doug Scott , policy director of The Campaign for America’s Wilderness, will be the featured speaker.

Scott began work for wilderness preservation soon after the Wilderness Act became law. As a volunteer activist while in graduate school, a Washington lobbyist for The Wilderness Society, and northwest representative for the Sierra Club, he was in the forefront of many of the important wilderness campaigns as a strategist and lobbyist.

In the 1980s, Scott was conservation director and, later, associate executive director of the Sierra Club, and in 1996 he received the club’s highest honor, the John Muir Award.

Scott was also a member of the board of directors of Environmental Teach-In, Inc., which organized the first Earth Day in 1970. He is the author of “The Enduring Wilderness: Protecting Our Natural Heritage through the Wilderness Act” (2004) and “Our Wilderness: America’s Common Ground” (2009).

Morning events will feature a talk by Scott, as well as presentations by the U.S. Forest Service, a Wilderness Jeopardy game, and a screening of the film “The Meaning of Wild,” a short film celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act.

Lunch will be provided, courtesy of the Ottawa Interpretive Association and the Conserve School.

Afternoon activities will include a wild rice demonstration by Roger Labine from the Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, a Junior Wilderness Ranger program, and a screening of the film “Forever Wild, Celebrating America’s Wilderness.”

Guided hikes in Sylvania Wilderness and Sturgeon River Gorge Wilderness are also being offered, but please call (906) 358-4724 to reserve a spot.

The Ottawa National Forest includes three Wilderness Areas: Sylvania Wilderness in Gogebic County, Sturgeon River Gorge Wilderness in southern Houghton County, and McCormick Wilderness in Marquette County.

“Residents and visitors to the western UP find many ways to enjoy our Wilderness areas,” said U.S. Forest Service Recreation and Wilderness Specialist Melissa Simpson.

Sylvania visitors enjoy fishing, camping, and swimming at the Clark Lake day use area. Many visitors come for backcountry canoe and kayak trips, paddling and portaging from lake to lake.

“Sturgeon River Gorge Wilderness offers some of the most remote and wild forest in the northwoods,” Simpson said. “A highlight for visitors is Sturgeon Falls, a beautiful waterfall at the bottom of the 350-foot deep gorge.”

McCormick Wilderness offers scenic lakes, boreal forest, and many rocky bluffs. Historical highlights include the remains of the estate of Cyrus McCormick, famous 1800’s agricultural inventor of the mechanical harvester.

For more information, contact Simpson at (906) 932-1330 x511.