What is Wilderness?
Wilderness is essentially unhindered and free from the actions of modern human control or manipulation.
Wilderness ecological systems are substantially free from the effects of modern civilization.
Wilderness retains its primeval character and influence and is essentially without permanent improvement or modern human occupation.
Wilderness provides outstanding opportunities for solitude or primitive and unconfined recreation.
OTHER FEATURES OF VALUE
Wilderness may also contain ecological, geological, or other features of scientific, educational, scenic, or historical value.
Wilderness is special. Wilderness is federal public land, designated by Congress, and protected under The Wilderness Act of 1964. The Wilderness Act established the National Wilderness Preservation System to include all federally designated wilderness areas, which today totals over 111 million acres inside 803 distinct wildernesses across the United States. Wilderness lands are managed by four federal land management agencies: National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Wilderness is unique from other public land because of its wildness, remoteness, and lack of amenities as well as its prohibitions of motor vehicles and equipment, permanent roads, and installations. Wilderness is land where we, as a society, choose to let nature run its course. Federal land management agencies seek to preserve these places so that they are untrammeled, natural, and undeveloped, with opportunities for solitude or primitive and unconfined recreation, while also protecting other features of value.
Wilderness preserves spectacular natural areas for flora and fauna to flourish, protects watersheds that provide clean drinking water, preserves areas that will support climate resilience, and offers rugged recreation opportunities for visitors to grow and develop independent and self-reliant skills. As we saw during the pandemic, wild places also provide visitors with opportunities for healing, rejuvenation, inspiration, and connection.
On the ground stewardship of wilderness, and our public lands more broadly, is vital for their protection. Federal land management agencies are often asked to do more with less funding and capacity. Now more than ever, stewardship organizations provide additional capacity to fill in gaps and accomplish necessary work.