18 Of The Best Wilderness Photos From Smithsonian’s “Wilderness Forever” Contest

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Wildlife is in shorter supply than ever before. Big builders continually come in and level out animal kingdoms in exchange for more concrete jungles humans can reside in. As an animal lover this terrifies me on so many levels, of course I need a place to live, but at what cost?

The Smithsonian  National Museum of Natural History has created a stunning exhibit titled, “Wilderness Forever. 50 Years of Protecting America’s Wild Places.” This collection of photos proves how important it is that we continue our conservation efforts because they really do work and benefit us all, humans and animals.

At first mention of the contest, over 5,000 submissions flooded the museum from photographers of all walks of life. It was up to a carefully selected panel of judges to make the final decisions for the collection. The wildlife images that made the cut are beyond amazing, showing off some of America’s most beautiful animals and landscapes. Perhaps these photos will inspire you to take action, fighting for the preservation of wilderness areas everywhere.

1. Mountain Goats Cling Together in Mount Evans Wilderness, Colorado 

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Since 1964, when conservation efforts were first made a law in the US, over 109 million acres have been made legally untouchable, preserved in dedication to wildlife and mother nature.

Photos from all over the US are included in the collection, from Alaska’s mountainsides to the forests lining the Pacific Coast. Although many come from regions where the most open space exists and animals have more opportunity to live a naturally wild life.

2. Endless meadow of wildflowers located in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming 

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3. Brown Bear captures his dinner in Katmai National Park and Preserve, Alaska 

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There are majestic creatures living all around us, tucked away on breathtaking mountaintops, and hidden behind walls of forest trees. You may not see these animals or landscapes very often, but they are still an integral part of our world. We must find it in our hearts to care in order to ensure they can continue to live natural and free, just as they deserve.

Love bears? See cute bears doing human things.

4. Climber embarks on Summit Pyramid of Sahale Mountain in Washington 

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5. A white snowy owl looks out over Otis Pike Fire Island High Dune in New York

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6. Home of the Alaska Range, the Denali Wilderness 

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7. Two Sandhill Cranes play in Bosque Del Apache, New Mexico 

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8. Snowy Meadow in Mount Hood, Oregon 

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9. Aurora Ridge Trail in the Sol Duc Valley, Washington 

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10. White Pocket Paria Canyon, the Vermilion Cliffs In Arizona 

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11. Bald Eagle captures a meal between his tallons in Glacier Bay Wilderness, Alaska 

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12. An American alligator in Marjory Stoneman Douglas, Florida 

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While alligators may appear to be scary and ferocious, they have a sweet side too. First classified in 1801, the American Alligator was listed as an endangered species by the year 1973. As a result, subsequent preservation methods were kicked into gear and the species is no longer endangered. Still, they are hunted for their meat and skin all too often.

The alligator is the official reptile in the states Florida, Mississippi, and Louisiana.

13. Banner Peak Alpenglow in California 

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14. Someone takes a lovely sunset paddle in Minnesota 

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15. What fall season looks like in Ouachita National Forest, Arkansas 

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16. A pretty purple sea star resides in Washington’s Olympic Wilderness 

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17. Aurora Borealis proves stunning over Honeymoon Rock near the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in Wisconsin 

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18. Red Foxes Play In the Denali National Park, Alaska 

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Want to see more incredible photos? Check out the 2014 iPhone Photography Winners.

Photo Credits: Dee Ann Pederson, Verdon Tomajko, Richard Ansley, Robert Amuroso, Ethan Welty, David Bahr, John Richter, Scott Joshua Dere, Brad Goldpaint, Pablo McCloud, Jeff Rennicke, Tim Iken, Diane McAllister, Jarrod Castaign, Thomas Bancroft, Laura Vu, Jenna Van Kley, Dawn M. La Pointe,