Wilderness Act of 1964 (WA)

Kelly Gleber AB APES


The Wilderness Act was promoted and written over an eight year period by the Wilderness Society. It created the legal definition of wilderness in the United States and protected 9.1 million acres of federal land. The Wilderness Act was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson on September 3, 1964. When passed, it created the National Wilderness Preservation System. The initial designated wilderness areas comprised national forests in the USA previously protected by administrative orders. The current amount of areas designated by the NWPS as wilderness totals 757 areas encompassing 109.5 million acres of federally owned land in 44 states and Puerto Rico.


“A wilderness, 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.”


Criticisms have been made pertaining to the land chosen for conservation; some say it is impossible to define and that the "wilderness" concept should be open for interpretation and modification.


Congress considers additional proposals every year recommended by federal agencies, lobbyists, as well as grassroots conservation and sportsmen’s organizations. Congressional bills have recently been discusses and approved to designate new wilderness areas in Utah, Colorado, Washington, California, Virginia, Idaho, West Virginia, Montana and New Hampshire. Grassroots coalitions are consistently working with local congressional delegations on legislative proposals for additional wilderness areas, including Vermont, southern Arizona, national grasslands in South Dakota, Rocky Mountain peaks of Montana, Colorado and Wyoming. The U.S. Forest Service has recommended new wilderness designations, which citizen groups may propose to expand. Efforts are frequently made to protect and sustain the beautiful and magnificent natural world that America was founded on.


The University of Montana (2011). Wilderness Act of 1964. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.wilderness.net/nwps/legisact. [Last Accessed 18 November 13].

The Wilderness Society (2013). Wilderness Act. [ONLINE] Available at: http://wilderness.org/article/wilderness-act. [Last Accessed 18 November 13].