Article and Photos by Mary Alice Murphy

Silver City Museum Director Tracey Spikes said the event and exhbit in recognition of the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act and the 90th anniversary of the creation of the Gila Wilderness is "wonderful for the museum and Silver City."


He requested a moment of silence for those who perished in a small plane crash near Whiskey Creek Airport the day before, and for their families and friends.

Spikes expressed gratitude to the Gila National Forest staff and volunteers, who helped with the exhibit. "Also of great help was retired Gila National Forest ranger Ron Henderson, who helped bring out the local story of the public hearing held in Silver City in1954 on the Wilderness Act. This exhibit also honors the 50th anniversary of the Wildnerness, which formalized the wilderness designation process."

The exhibit and celebrations will continue throughout the year with various events.

Sen. Martin Heinrich also asked that people keep the families of the plane crash victims in their prayers.

"This exhibit is our history•an incredibly powerful history," Heinrich said. "These are because of ideas that came out of New Mexico. Edgar Lee Hewitt from New Mexico wrote the Antiquities Act. Aldo Leopold and Sen. Clinton Anderson in New Mexico brought their ideas to the process.

"We can't let our relationship with the land get lost," he continued. "I personally held an outfitter license and used to send people into the Gila Wilderness. It is really special to me. It was during a 53-mile hike in this wilderness that I decided to run for political office.

"I want to thank everyone who keeps this history alive," Heinrich concluded.

Gila Wilderness Ranger Ray Torres said GNF Supervisor Kelly Russell approached Spikes with the idea for the exhibit. "I applaud the museum for taking on the challenge of working with the federal government," he said to chuckles from the audience. "Charmeine Wait and Jackie Becker were instrumental in developing this exhibit. This area is the birthplace of the wilderness idea and concept. Aldo Leopold developed his ideas here."

Torres said Leopold realized that developing the land was for progress, but he also realized the need to maintain wilderness. The congressional act gave authority to create wilderness areas. The U.S. has 109 million acres with wilderness status.

"Take time to absorb all of this exhibit," Torres said. "Do it today or come back several times to take in all the information."

On Sunday, May 25, 2014, at the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument, John Cramer was to present on the 90th anniversary of the Gila Wilderness.

At the museum is an interactive area, where children and adults can learn about wild animal tracks, as well as look at maps of the Gila Wilderness and participate in other hands-on activities.

The exhibit will continue into January 2015.


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