When the first Europeans settled in what is now the United States, they found a continent of almost unbroken wildland. In less than 500 years the undeveloped nature of this 2-billion-acre (809-million-ha) undeveloped estate has been reduced by 98%. As wildlands became scarce, Americans began to appreciate their value.
Think about the 1950s and 1960s in American history. What was happening during that time? It was an era of increasing travel via cars, trains, and planes. Concern was growing for air and water quality, and the potential that no lands in the United States would remain wild and free. American citizens in the 1950s wanted some public lands permanently designated as wilderness. The most long-lasting and certain way to protect public lands was through law passed by Congress and signed by the president. In the early 1930s, Bob Marshall, who dreamed of wilderness protected by law, stated, "Areas … should be set aside by an act of Congress. This would give them as close an