Heading Forward, Looking Back: A Timeline of Wilderness in Nevada

The Wilderness Act, signed into law on September 3, 1964, has created 70 Wilderness areas in Nevada that include ecosystems ranging from lower sagebrush steppes and the Mojave Desert to high alpine areas and Bristlecone-dotted ridgelines. And the very best part of these magnificent Wilderness areas? They belong to you! Designated Wilderness is part of your public lands system, so all Americans have the opportunity to visit these areas and soak in their natural beauty. Let’s take a look back in time to better understand the impact of this bedrock conservation law and appreciate how it has protected the places in Nevada we love, for many generations to come.


Jarbidge Wilderness, Nevada's first Wilderness, was designated in 1964. By Scott Smith.

Marge Sill, who would later become a founding board member of Friends of Nevada Wilderness, works with other conservation leaders on the Wilderness Act and establishes Jarbidge Wilderness as Nevada’s first Wilderness area when the Wilderness Act is signed by Congress on September 3, 1964.

Friends of Nevada Wilderness is officially founded, including IRS 501(c)3 status and Articles of Incorporation in Nevada.

Great Basin National Park is established in White Pine County thanks to the Nevada conservation community, including Friends of Nevada Wilderness and Marge Sill.


Mt. Charleston Wilderness, outside of Las Vegas, was designated as Wilderness in 1989 and expanded in 2002. Photo by Kurt Kuznicki.

The Nevada Forest Service Protection Act – designating 733,400 acres of Wilderness – is signed into law on December 5, 1989. The 13 new Wilderness areas include Mt. Charleston Wilderness and Mt. Rose Wilderness. The act also expands the Jarbidge Wilderness.

1990 -1993
Friends of Nevada Wilderness helps pass the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area Act in 1990, creating the extremely popular Red Rock National Conservation Area outside Las Vegas. In 1993, the area is expanded from 83,000 to 195,000 acres.

The California Desert Protection Act of 1994 designates 44,000 acres of Wilderness – the ‘Nevada Triangle’ of Death Valley National Park.


The Black Rock Desert-High Rock Canyon Emigrant Trails National Conservation Area contains ten designated Wilderness areas. Photo by Brian Beffort.

The Black Rock Desert–High Rock Canyon Emigrant Trail National Conservation Area Act of 2000 is signed into law on December 21, 2000, designating ten Wilderness areas in northwest Nevada, totaling 752,000 acres. This includes the Black Rock Desert Wilderness, the largest designated Wilderness area in Nevada at 315,700 acres.

The Clark County Conservation of Public Land and Natural Resources Act is signed into law on November 6, 2002. The act designates 17 wilderness areas – including the Eldorado Wilderness and Ireteba Peaks Wilderness – and also expands the Mt. Charleston Wilderness and creates the Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area.

The Nevada Wilderness Coalition, with assistance from Friends of Nevada Wilderness volunteers and staff in the field who completed mapping and organizing in both Lincoln and White Pine Counties, publishes "The Citizen’s Proposal for Wilderness in Lincoln and White Pine Counties."

Water flowing through the Goshute Canyon Wilderness, designated in 2004. Photo by Scott Smith.

The Lincoln County Conservation, Recreation and Development Act of 2004 is signed into law on November 29, 2004, and creates 14 new Wilderness areas, totaling 768,294 acres, and includes Weepah Spring Wilderness and Goshute Canyon Wilderness.

On December 18, 2006, the White Pine County Conservation, Recreation and Development Act of 2006 designates 13 new wilderness areas, totaling 558,133 acres, and including the White Pine Range Wilderness.

Friends of Nevada Wilderness expands its stewardship work, completing projects with the BLM and the Forest Service on the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest. As a result, Friends is awarded the prestigious national Bob Marshall Award as Champions of Wilderness Stewardship.

Friends of Nevada Wilderness begins a concerted effort to inventory Wilderness Study Areas and Lands with Wilderness Character in order to establish Wilderness recommendations for the land management agencies in their planning process. Efforts are led with the re-inventory of about 60 areas in northern Nevada with high Sage-Grouse habitat values.

 The Pine Forest Range Wilderness in northern Nevada was designated in 2014. Photo by Brian Beffort.

On December 19, 2014, the Pine Forest Range and Wovoka became Nevada’s newest Wilderness areas with the National Defense Authorization Act of 2015. The untrammeled 26,000-acre Pine Forest Range Wilderness is located in Humboldt County; the culturally important 49,000-acre Wovoka Wilderness is found in Lyon County near the East Walker River.

After two decades of advocacy by coalition partners including Friends of Nevada Wilderness, President Barack Obama designates Gold Butte as a National Monument on December 28, 2016. Gold Butte National Monument includes Wilderness areas like Lime Canyon Wilderness.


The Sheep Range Proposed Wilderness is the largest roadless area in Nevada. Photo by Kurt Kuznicki.

Friends of Nevada Wilderness continues to work towards the protection of outstanding wild areas in Nevada like the Sheep Range Proposed Wilderness, and continues to promote ethical recreation and the stewardship of our public lands in Nevada.

Click here to find out how you can help protect the Sheep Range and the Desert National Wildlife Refuge.


The Buffalo Hills Wilderness Study Area - one of many the Washoe County Commission want to strip protection from. Photo by Brian Beffort.

Today, Wilderness Study Areas across the state are under attack at the federal and county level. These areas have been recognized for their outstanding Wilderness characteristics, but are in limbo until an act of Congress designates them. Places like Buffalo Hills Wilderness Study Area will lose their protected status - and their recreation potential and their wildlife and watersheds will suffer. Click here to find out how you can defend our Wilderness Study Areas statewide, and click here to find out more about defending our public lands in Washoe County today!



Updated September 3, 2018.

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