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.

  • Comments from The Wilderness Society, Natural Resources Defense Council, and others submitted to the Bureau of Land Management regarding proposed rules for leasing land for wind and solar energy projects on federal lands. 

  • The 114th Congress faces a multitude of environmental challenges. The Wilderness Society is working the halls of power to make sure that America's wild places are part of the legislative agenda, and to make sure that lawmakers and staff are hearing both sides of the issues.

  • The Wilderness Society submitted official comments on the draft Desert Renewable Energy Conservation plan that was proposed early in the fall of 2014. The comment period allowed for broad public participation in determining the future of balancing conservation and recreation with renewable energy development.

    The following is an excerpt from our comments submitted on February 22, 2015. The full comment document is available for download.