Wilderness rivers :environmentalism, the wilderness movement, and river preservation during the 1960s
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Wilderness Rivers explores America's treatment of rivers in the context of the social and political climate of the 1960s. The decades following the Second World War brought about significant changes in the way Americans perceived their environment. Higher levels of affluence and education, continued urbanization, and the popularization of ecology converged to prOlTIote an environmental awakening that increased steadily throughout the decade. The conservation movement broadened to include issues of quality of life and ecological protection. Rivers enlerged as a central issue in relation to outdoor recreation, poUu tion, and freshwater shortages. As part of the general idea of wilderness preservation that came to fruition in the Wilderness Act of 1964, river advocates forwarded proposals to establish a protective federal system of wild rivers. To this end, the federal government experimented with a variety of river protection programs before arriving at the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968 which established a nationwide system of representative river preserves. Despite strong support for the idea, the resulting system secures only marginal protection for rivers based largely on recreational considerations. The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act is most significant for providing a symbolic acknowledgement of the need to restrain further development and prevent despoilation of America's rivers.
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