Pennsylvania Senator Richard Schweiker passed away on Friday at age 89.
While in office as a U.S. Senator, Richard Schweiker was a staunch supporter, along with former Pennsylvania Senator Hugh Scott, of designating more wilderness areas in the Allegheny National Forest under the Wilderness Act of 1964. He was a cosponsor of the Eastern Wilderness Areas Act of 1975, which designated more than 200,000 acres of wilderness in Eastern national forest lands.
In the Allegheny National Forest, Senators Schweiker and Scott fought for wilderness designation for the Allegheny Front, Hickory Creek, Minister Valley, and Tracy Ridge areas.
On September 21st, 1973, Senator Schweiker wrote to local long-time wilderness advocate Helen McGinnis (see attached letter) in support of the inclusion of these four wild, untrammeled portions of the Allegheny under the Eastern Wilderness Areas Act.
The Senator wrote in part:
“I share your concern about designation of the Allegheny National Forest areas, and will give this legislation my close attention when it is reported from the Interior Committee to the full Senate, to be sure that Pennsylvania is not overlooked.”
Though Senators Schweiker and Scott had an amendment which would designate these important Allegheny areas included in the Senate version of the bill, unfortunately their amendment was not retained for final passage of the Eastern Wilderness Areas Act in 1975.
Below is a photo from the 40th anniversary of the Wilderness Act commemorative dinner on Sunday, September 19th, 2004 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.
Senator and Mrs. Schweiker attended this momentous event (along with many other special guests — Robert Redford was another!) at the invitation of Friends of Allegheny Wilderness because of his strong support for preserving wilderness over the years.
Polly Dyer, a resident of Washington State, has been a wilderness advocate since the 1950s. She and her husband founded the Pacific Northwest Chapter of the Sierra Club — the organization’s first Chapter outside of California. It was Polly herself who first gave Howard Zahniser the idea to employ the now iconic word “untrammeled” to help define wilderness for the purposes of the Wilderness Act as he was drafting the bill.