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.

  • Tim Woody

    One year after Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell upheld a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decision to forbid the construction of a road through federally designated wilderness in Alaska's Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, members of the conservation community are encouraging an effort to find a permanent alternative solution to meet the transportation needs of King Cove.

  • Neil Shader

    The Wilderness Society’s annual year-end  Comparative Analysis of Particular Excellence (CAPE) awards celebrate the agency’s achievements towards wildlands conservation and balanced management of our public lands.

    In this 50th Anniversary year of the Wilderness Act, Director Kornze and the National Office showed tremendous leadership in their dedication to protecting wilderness for our future generations.

  • Neil Shader

    The new guidance requires analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) has to include effects on climate change – including resource extraction and timber harvesting on federal lands.