What is Wilderness?

What is Wilderness?

A Wilderness Area is designated by an act of Congress, with a formal definition established by the Wilderness Act, which was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on September 3, 1964:

A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his 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....[L]and retaining its primeval character and influence, without permanent improvements or human habitation, which is protected and managed so as to preserve its natural conditions

Beyond its formal definition, for many people, designated Wilderness holds a special place in the heart and mind. Click the links on the left to learn the many ways that Wilderness benefits the individual as well as our society, at large. Find the many uses of Wilderness — uses that span from personal solitude to social benefits like clean air and water, healthy wildlife populations and a protected cultural legacy.

Check out this great Wilderness video from the National Park Service.


Wilderness Defined

Wilderness means many things to many people—watersheds to collect and purify our water; places for our children and theirs to grow healthy and capable; habitat for plants and wildlife; biomedical storehouses to protect tomorrow's scientific and medical discoveries; adventure and exploration; fair chase and a quality hunt; good fishing; archaeological windows into the past, etched into rock and lying on the ground, inviting us to wonder; escape from the noise and rush of civilization; where we can experience solitude and the beauty and wonder of Creation. (...)


Many Uses of Wilderness

Wilderness provides essential services…

  • Healthy watersheds to provide clean water

  • Healthy plant communities that give us fresh air to breathe

  • Healthy soil that provides nutrients for our bodies


Recommended Reading: Jeffrey Weise's 50 Books for the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act

Courtesy of Jeffrey Weise

I don’t know anyone who is a wilderness nut who doesn’t have a favorite wilderness book. Or a shelf full.

Wilderness is Multiple Use

By Bill Schneider

Have you ever heard somebody say they prefer “multiple use” over Wilderness? I have what seems like a thousand times, and every time I hear it, I say to myself, wrong! (...)


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