The Wilderness Act


Federally owned land, showing the amount of wilderness that protected by the Wilderness Act


  • In 1956 ,former Wilderness Society Executive Director, Howard Zahniser drafted the bill to protect some of the nation's remaining wilderness.
  • the Wilderness Act was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on September 3, 1964 after over sixty drafts and eight years of work.
  • The Wilderness Act protects nearly 110 million acres of wilderness areas in states throughout the United States of America (this is a nation law).

Howard Zahniser

The Wilderness Act being signed into law.

What is wilderness?

Wilderness is defined as an area in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.

The National Wilderness Preservation System enforces the Wilderness Act

Important Dates

1964: President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Wilderness Act into Law.

1968: The first US Fish and Wildlife Service Wilderness is designated (Great Swamp Wilderness in New Jersey).

1968: First New National Forest Wilderness Established

1970: First National Park Wilderness Area Designated

1970: National Environmental Policy Enacted

1972: First Citizen-Proposed Wilderness Designated

1975: Eastern Wilderness Areas Act Becomes Law

1978: 1.3 Million of Wilderness Designated

1980: 2.3 Million Acres Wilderness Area Established

1984: 8 Million Acres Designated as Wilderness

1994: 7.7 Million Acres Selected for protection

2001: Roadless Area Conservation Rule Enacted

2004: 14 Wilderness Desigantions in Nevada

2004: Wilderness Desinated in Wisconsin and Puerto Rico


  • Bills have been passed to select new wilderness areas in Utah, Colorado, Washington, California, Virginia, West Virginia, Montana, New Hampshire, and Idaho.
  • The U.S. Forest Service has made recommendations that would designate new wilderness areas. These recommendations have been to be expanded by many citizens.
  • The Wilderness Act, itself is considered to be one of America's greatest conservation achievements.


It is argued that the criteria used to determine what land falls under the category of "wilderness" is too vague. Many say that the criteria and concept of "wilderness" should be reevaluated.

Suggestions for Improvements

The Wilderness Act has been very successful since it's inceptions. It is quite possible Earth's global community could benefit from Wilderness Act becoming an international law.

Many places all over the world are depleting its wilderness of its nutrients and natural beauty. If the Wilderness Act were to become an international law (one enforced by the United Nations), these places could be conserved for future generations.


Digest of Federal Resource Laws of Interest to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. (n.d.). Wilderness Act of 1964. Retrieved November 22, 2013, from

Western Heritage Alliance. (n.d.). Western Heritage Alliance. Retrieved November 22, 2013, from (n.d.). Retrieved November 21, 2013, from

Quentin Moore