Residents across the state are preparing to celebrate a historic anniversary – the 50th year of the Wilderness Act. The act was signed into law on Sept. 3, 1964, establishing the National Wilderness Preservation System “as a mechanism to have kind of a unified way of giving protections to wild places that we want to give our highest protection to,” said Tennessee playwright and wilderness enthusiast Jim Pfitzer, “places where we don’t want to have any road building or developments or mineral extractions, that kind of thing.” Initially, some 9 million acres of wildlands were set aside for the use and benefit of the American people. During the past half-century, Congress has added another 100 million acres. In Tennessee, thousands of acres of the most beautiful natural areas have been protected. Still, Pfitzer said, it’s important that while looking back at the success, people also look ahead to the future. “There are assaults on wilderness from several fronts right now, people who would like to see the law changed,” he said, “So I think it’s real important that people don’t just rest on what we’ve already done. We say we protect things in perpetuity, but laws can be changed.” A celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act will be held Sept. 3 at the East Tennessee History Center in downtown Knoxville. More information is online at wildsouth.org and at jimpfitzer.com.