Several local agencies are sponsoring a Conservation Film Night commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act of 1964

by: BILL MINTIENS - The above photo was taken during the removal of Stearns Dam. One of the films being shown  at the film night will chronicle the project.

Like an island amidst a large swath of surrounding public land, the wilderness stands alone as pristine and untamed country.

Protected from tree thinning efforts, mining operations, motorized vehicle traffic, and more, wilderness lands are set aside with the intent of preserving their natural state for future generations to enjoy.

Such lands became possible when Congress passed the Wilderness Act of 1964, and to commemorate the occasion, the Crooked River Watershed Council, Trout Unlimited, and Ochoco National Forest are sponsoring a conservation film night next week.

"The Forest Service is trying to spread the word about the 50th anniversary," said Patrick Lair, public affairs specialist for Ochoco National Forest. "Here on the Ochoco, we have been partnering with the folks on the Deschutes (National Forest), coming up with some movies that really tell different sides of the story."

On Wednesday evening, at the Crook County High School Auditorium, visitors can view two videos. The first is an 18-minute documentary on the 2013 removal of Stearns Dam on the Crooked River.

"It really portrays, in the beginning, the history of irrigating on the Crooked River, before Bowman Dam was even built," said Bill Mintiens, of Prineville-based Jakie Spring Media, the film company that produced the documentary for the Watershed Council. He added that the video offers an historical perspectives on the Stearns family as well as the portion of river the dam occupied.

"It is also educational," Mintiens continued, "because it sort of wakes people up to the fact that native fish species have not been able to return to their native estuaries for 100 years."

The film will accompany a longer documentary titled "Forever Wild: Celebrating America's Wilderness." It was created by actor Robert Redford and released in 2011.

"He goes and talks to three different people around the country and tells their story of how they worked from the grassroots level to get a certain piece of ground in their backyard designated as wilderness," Lair said. "I thought it was a good tie-in with the movie on the Stearns Dam removal."

Event sponsors hope the upcoming film night will help visitors learn more about wilderness management and the history of the legislation as well as how diverse citizens around the country worked to achieve wilderness designation for cherished landscapes.

"It's not necessarily a tool for the government to make wilderness so much as it is a tool for people to make wilderness," Lair said. "There are a lot of natural resources in this area that people have access to, so we felt that was important to bring to local audiences.

Conservation Film Night, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act of 1964, will be held in the Crook County High School auditorium on Wednesday, March 19. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., and the movies will begin at 7 p.m.

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