What is Wilderness?

We like to think of Wilderness as our gift to future generations of Americans. It’s one piece of the ecological puzzle to save our country from ever-expanding development. It’s refuge and corridor for wildlife. It’s biological diversity. It’s untamed forest, desert, coast, and mountain. It’s quiet. It’s restorative. It keeps us sane. Here are some interesting facts about Wilderness.

It takes an act of Congress to designate an area as wilderness—and YOUR voice is an important part of protecting our wild places. Here is more information about the wilderness designation process.

A beautiful expression of the ideals of the Wilderness Act

The Wilderness Act of 1964

The Wilderness Act created the National Wilderness Preservation System to preserve and protect public lands that fit the following definition of Wilderness:

… in contrast with those areas where man and his works dominate the landscape, [Wilderness] is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.

An area of wilderness is further defined to mean in this Act an area of undeveloped Federal land retaining its primeval character and influence, without permanent improvements or human habitation, which is protected and managed so as to preserve its natural conditions and which

  1. Generally appears to have been affected primarily by the forces of nature, with the imprint of man’s work substantially unnoticeable
  2. Has outstanding opportunities for solitude or a primitive and unconfined type of recreation
  3. Has at least five thousand acres of land or is of sufficient size as to make practicable its preservation and use in an unimpaired condition
  4. May also contain ecological, geological, or other features of scientific, educational, scenic, or historical value