Timeline: 1950-2000

The ecologic and economic futures of entire ecosystems became a growing concern during these decades.

"The concept of a wilderness system marked an innovation in the history of the American preservation movement." 

—Roderick Nash from Wilderness and the American Mind, 1967

  • 1955

    Sierra Club Executive Director David Brower leads successful opposition to development of Echo Park Dam at Dinosaur N.M.

  • 1962

    Scientist Rachel Carson publishes Silent Spring, stirring public consciousness about pesticides and the environment. 


  • 1963

    On April 3, Congress passes the first Clean Air Act, which established the required control of air pollution.


  • 1964

    Authored by Howard Zahniser of the Wilderness Society, the Wilderness Act creates the National Wilderness Preservation System.

  • 1964

    Congress establishes the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act.

  • 1968

    Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge Wilderness becomes the first FWS wilderness to be added to the NWPS.

  • 1969

    The National Environmental Policy Act is passed, requiring public involvement in land management planning and systematic evaluation of the environmental impacts of proposed projects on public lands.


  • 1970

    Senator Gaylord Nelson founds Earth Day, focusing national attention on the environment. 

  • 1970

    Petrified Forest N.P. and Craters of the Moon N.M. become the first NPS sites to include designated wilderness areas.  


  • 1973

    Originally passed in 1966 and amended in 1969, the Endangered Species Act of 1973 is passed to protect critically imperiled species from extinction.


  • 1975

    The Eastern Wilderness Act is passed, allowing additional lands with wilderness character and potential to be included in the NWPS.

  • 1976

    The Federal Land Policy and Management Act designates the BLM as the fourth federal agency to manage wilderness.

  • 1978

    The Wild Rogue and Santa Lucia Wildernesses include the first Bureau of Land Management lands to become wilderness.


  • 1980

    President Jimmy Carter signed the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act establishing 10 new NPS sites, 9 wildlife refuges, and additional BLM conservation units.

  • 1988

    The Ocean Dumping Ban Act passes to prevent municipal sewage sludge and industrial waste dumping in the ocean.

  • 1995

    Mojave National Park is established.

  • 1996

    Grand Staircase-Escalante N.M. is created, the BLM's first national monument, including 1.7 million acres of the most remote wild lands in the lower 48 states.

  • 1997

    Congress passes the National Wildlife Refuge Improvement Act.

  • 1997

    Representatives from more than 150 countries meet in Kyoto, Japan and agree to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases 5.2-percent by 2010.