Photo: Wilderness Society staffer Soren Jespersen, left, works with Will Roush of partner group The Wilderness Workshop to inventory lands for wilderness characteristics.
Throughout the country, there are still wild places largely untouched by development. These are prime places for simple outdoor experiences, such as hiking and camping. The BLM calls these areas “lands with wilderness characteristics”, because they offer solitude for wildlife and people alike. Lands with wilderness characteristics can be found in glacial formations in Montana as much as in grasslands of New Mexico.
The Wilderness Society is leading the way. Acknowledging and protecting lands with wilderness characteristics is a key component of multiple use and sustained yield management, and, importantly, keeps the human-nature relationship intertwined with our approach to public lands policy.
The Bureau of Land Management has a unique toolset for managing natural, roadless places that support a more primitive form of recreation. Current guidance for lands with wilderness characteristics requires the agency to look for these lands and consider protecting them for their inherent ecological and recreation values. We work to make sure the BLM does not overlook lands with wilderness characteristics or miss opportunities to protect these landscapes:
Inventorying Lands with Wilderness Characteristics: In order for the BLM to protect lands with wilderness characteristics, the agency must know where these lands are. Updated inventories of places that meet the criteria for naturalness and outstanding opportunities for recreation and solitude are essential for understanding these resources. The BLM Action Center holds the agency accountable to keeping its lands with wilderness characteristics inventories up-to-date and following current policy requirements for conducting inventories. We also get into the field to inventory lands with wilderness characteristics and support public identification of wilderness-quality lands by training partner groups and citizens how to inventory lands with wilderness characteristics in accordance with BLM policy.
Protecting Lands with Wilderness Characteristics: Lands with wilderness characteristics must be considered in making management decisions just as the agency considers other resources, such as oil and gas development or off-road vehicle trails. However, the BLM is not required to protect all – or even any – lands with wilderness characteristics when making management decisions. That why our advocacy for these wildlands is critical. Through policy recommendations, place-based engagement and our work to encourage public input, we ensure the BLM is giving lands with wilderness characteristics its rightful place in multiple use management. These recommendations, as well as our partnerships with local conservation and citizen groups, are essential to successfully protecting lands with wilderness characteristics in land management planning.
Photo above: Donkey Hills, Idaho, by Soren Jespersen.
Photo: Munger Creek, Colorado, by Soren Jespersen