Wilderness Designation

Congress can give public lands permanent protection by designating them as wilderness. A wilderness designation helps ensure treasured lands from coast to coast are protected for future generations.

Wilderness designation is the highest form of protection the government can give to a public land. No roads, vehicles or permanent structures are allowed in designated wilderness. A wilderness designation also prohibits activities like logging or mining.

Wilderness is designated through wilderness bills and through local, on-the-ground campaigns. The revolutionary Wilderness Act, introduced in 1964, gives Congress the power to protect a public land with a wilderness designation.

Video: Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act

What is wilderness

Wilderness belongs to us. Protected wilderness has no roads, no development — it is our last unspoiled, natural refuge from the urban world. It’s our job to make sure wilderness thrives for generations to come.

Why protect wilderness

Since the Wilderness Act passed in 1964, Congress has designated nearly 110 million acres of federal wildlands as official wilderness. Official wilderness has the highest form of protection of any federal wildland.

How we designate wilderness

We work with local grassroots coalitions on campaigns to build support for wilderness and other conservation designations, both on the local and congressional levels.

Issues and threats

There are persistent issues and threats related to wilderness, from fires to grazing. Because these issues each impact wilderness differently, they require individual analysis and attention.

Current campaigns and legislation

Every year, new and existing wilderness designation campaigns emerge to protect America’s treasured wildlands.

Wilderness Act

The revolutionary 1964 Wilderness Act gave Congress the power to permanently protect public lands as wilderness.

Wilderness Designation FAQs

Want to know more about wilderness? Check out our Wilderness FAQs.

  • Michael Reinemer
    The Wilderness Society today praised Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) for introducing important legislation that would conserve more than 58,000 acres of public lands in Colorado’s Eagle and Summit Counties including approximately 40,000 acres of wilderness and more than 18,000 acres as special management areas.  
     
  • Michael Reinemer
    To mark the 50th year since the signing of the Wilderness Act in 1964, the Getches-Wilkinson Center for Natural Resources, Energy and the Environment and The Wilderness Society will host a conference on September 4 and 5 at the University of Colorado Law School in Boulder. “Celebrating the Great Law: The Wilderness Act at 50” will feature prominent authors, professors, historians, activists and Colorado’s poet laureate.  
     
  • cate tanenbaum

    Wilderness Society applauds House for moving beyond ‘gridlock’ but says new amendments lead legislation astray

    The Wilderness Society today praised the House Natural Resources Comamittee for advancing Wilderness designations for Washington state and Nevada but worries House legislation departs too significantly from more locally supported counterpart bills in the Senate.