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.

  • A letter to Members of the House of Representatives urging them to oppose HR 4899, a bill that would undermine important wildland protections and force drilling in pristine areas of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska

  • Every year, a coalition of conservation and environmental groups produce a report to help Congress as it debates the federal budget for the year. This report, has typically been to referred to as the "Green Budget." This year, it is titled "Green Investments," and it illustrates the importance of reinvesting in conservation and natural resources programs for Fiscal Year 2015 by looking at some of the effects of recent budget cuts. 

  • The Honorable Doc Hastings, Chairman
    U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources
    1324 Longworth House Office Building
    Washington, DC 20515
     
    The Honorable Peter DeFazio, Ranking Member
    U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources
    1324 Longworth House Building
    Washington, DC 20515
     
    Dear Chairman Hastings, Ranking Member DeFazio and Members of the Committee: