For the past two years, Wild South has honored individuals who were leaders in the Sipsey Wilderness expansion campaign. Our first honorees were John Randolph, 2014, and Congressman Ronnie Flippo, 2015. This year, Wild South will celebrate and honor a special group of women who made the Sipsey Wilderness a reality – the Women of the Sipsey.

L-R: Bankhead District Ranger Dave Casey, Elberta Reid, Bankhead ORA Mike Cook, National Forests in Alabama Supervisor Carl Petrick


Clockwise from left: Mary Burks, Ruth Manasco, Elberta Reid

The creation of the Sipsey Wilderness is a remarkable story of citizens doing something many thought was impossible. The Wilderness Act of 1964 was considered a law affecting only western states. Five years later a group of Alabamians proposed a wilderness bill establishing the Sipsey Wilderness. The small group who led the wilderness movement in Alabama was prominently run by women. Their efforts to create a wilderness in Alabama, the first of its kind, helped launch the eastern wilderness movement. Because of their actions, there are now over a million acres of federally designated wilderness east of the Mississippi River.

The creation of the Sipsey Wilderness is a story about women and their vital role in accomplishing what many thought was impossible.


Ruth Manasco – Bankhead National Forest activist, teacher and artist.

Elberta Reid – Advocated and lobbied for the Sipsey Wilderness legislation in Washington, DC; Editor, co-producer and promoter of the film, The Bankhead Forest-An Alabama Adventure.

Weesie Smith – Field botanist for the Bankhead Wilderness Feasibility Study Committee; coauthor of Alabama Conservancy’s 1971 “Wild Areas” proposal; Co-author of the Eastern Wilderness Act of 1975.


 Mary Burks – The mother of Alabama wilderness; organizer of the Wilderness Feasibility Study Committee

Dale Carruthers – Amateur historian and volunteer researcher.

Blanche Dean – Early advocate for the Sipsey Wilderness, educator, author, field naturalist and biologist.

Additional Wilderness Advocates:

Ann Tate – Supported the bird survey portion of the Sipsey Wilderness feasibility study.

Harriet Wright – Photographer of the Sipsey Wilderness

The Women of the Sipsey Campaign:

Wild South has created the Women of the Sipsey Campaign for people to make contributions in honor of these women. All funds will be used to support Wild South’s stewardship efforts in the Sipsey Wilderness. The commemorative poster honoring the Women of the Sipsey will be displayed in the Sipsey Recreation Area trailhead kiosk this summer.