The Wilderness Act of 1964 (Pub.L. 88–577) was written by Howard Zahniser of The Wilderness Society. It created the legal definition of wilderness in the United States, and protected 9.1 million acres (37,000 km²) of federal land. The result of a long effort to protect federal wilderness and to create a formal mechanism for designating 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 is well known for its succinct and poetic definition of wilderness:
"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." - Howard Zahniser
When Congress passed and President Lyndon Johnson signed the Wilderness Act on September 3, 1964, it created the National Wilderness Preservation System. The initial statutory wilderness areas, designated in the Act, comprised 9.1 million acres (37,000 km²) of national forest wilderness areas in the United States of America 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 (5% of the land in the United States).
|Long title||An Act to establish a National Wilderness Preservation System for the permanent good of the whole people, and for other purposes.|
|Nicknames||Wilderness Act of 1964|
|Enacted by||the 88th United States Congress|
|Statutes at Large||78 Stat. 890|
|Titles amended||16 U.S.C.: Conservation|
|U.S.C. sections created||16 U.S.C. ch. 23 § 1131 et seq.|
Today, the Wilderness System comprises over 109 million acres (441,000 km²) involving federal lands administered by four agencies:
|The National Wilderness Preservation System:|
Area Administered by each Federal Agency (September 2014)
|Agency||Wilderness area||Agency land|
|National Park Service||43,932,843 acres (17,778,991 ha)||56%|
|U.S. Forest Service||36,165,620 acres (14,635,710 ha)||18%|
|U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service||20,702,488 acres (8,378,000 ha)||22%|
|Bureau of Land Management||8,710,087 acres (3,524,847 ha)||2%|
|Total||109,511,038 acres (44,317,545 ha)||100%|
Wilderness Act land is chosen from existing federal land and by determining which areas are considered to have the following criteria:
Additionally, areas considered as wilderness should have no enterprises within them or any motorized travel (e.g.; vehicles, motorcycles).
When Congress designates each wilderness area, it includes a very specific boundary line in statutory law. Once a wilderness area has been added to the system, its protection and boundary can be altered only by Congress.
The basics of the program set out in the Wilderness Act are straightforward:
When the Wilderness Act was passed, it ignored lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management because of uncertainty of policy makers surrounding the future of those areas. The uncertainty was clarified in 1976 with the passing of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, which stated that land managed by the Bureau of Land Management would remain federally owned and, between March 1978 and November 1980, would be reviewed to possibly be classified as wilderness.
Some argue that the criteria to determine wilderness are vague and open to interpretation. For example, one criterion for wilderness is that it be roadless, and the act does not define the term roadless. Wilderness advocacy groups and some agency bureaucrats have attempted to impose this standard: "the word 'roadless' refers to the absence of roads that have been improved and maintained by mechanical means." For more information, see Revised Statute 2477.
Another criticism of the Wilderness Act is that it defines wilderness as "where man himself is a visitor who does not remain."
Congress considers additional proposals every year, some recommended by federal agencies and many proposed by grassroots conservation and sportsmen's organizations.
Congressional bills are pending to designate new wilderness areas in Utah, Colorado, Washington, California, Virginia, Idaho, West Virginia, Montana and New Hampshire. Grassroots coalitions are 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.
In 2014, America celebrated "50 Years of Wilderness", and Wilderness50, a growing coalition of federal agencies, non-profit organizations, academic institutions, and other wilderness user groups has been created to document this historical commemoration honoring America's "True American Legacy of Wilderness."
A series of projects and events were held to commemorate the 50th year of the Wilderness Act, including community museum, airport and visitor center displays; National website and social media campaign; Smithsonian photography exhibition; Washington D.C. Wilderness Week in September, and the National Wilderness Conference.
Browns Canyon National Monument is a 21,586 acres (33.7 sq mi; 87.4 km2) national monument in Chaffee County, Colorado that was designated as such by President Barack Obama under the Antiquities Act on February 19, 2015. The site will be centered along the Arkansas River between Buena Vista and Salida. Browns Canyon is the most popular destination for whitewater rafting in the country, and is also known for its fishing and hiking. The monument will provide habitat protection for bighorn sheep, peregrine falcons, elk, and golden eagles.Designation of the monument was requested by numerous Colorado lawmakers, including Senators Michael Bennet and Mark Udall, Representative Joel Hefley and Governor John Hickenlooper. It was opposed by Representatives Ken Buck and Doug Lamborn, who objected to the president's use of executive action in declaring the monument. Lamborn also objected to the effect that the monument's creation would have on grazing, mineral and water rights; in response the White House stated that the designation would honor "valid and existing rights, but withdraws the area from future mineral leasing." The monument will be run jointly by the Bureau of Land Management and United States Forest Service.California Wilderness Act of 1984
The California Wilderness Act of 1984 is a federal law (Public Law 98-425), passed by the United States Congress on September 28, 1984, that authorized the addition of over 3 million acres (12,000 km2) within the state of California to the National Wilderness Preservation System.Eastern Wilderness Act
The Eastern Wilderness Areas Act (Pub.L. 93–622, 88 Stat. 2096, enacted January 3, 1975) was signed into law by President Gerald Ford on January 3, 1975. Built upon the 1964 Wilderness Act, which was written by Howard Zahniser of The Wilderness Society and signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson, the Act designated 16 new wilderness areas in the Eastern United States, including 207,000 acres (84,000 ha) of wilderness on national lands in 13 states. Although it was originally untitled, the bill signed by Ford has come to be known as the Eastern Wilderness Areas Act.While the previous Act created the legal definition of wilderness in the United States, the Eastern Wilderness Areas Act applied only to land east of the 100th meridian west.Ellicott Rock Wilderness
Ellicott Rock Wilderness is managed by the United States Forest Service and is part of the National Wilderness Preservation System. It was first designated by Congress in 1975 with the Eastern Wilderness Act. The majority of this land (approximately 3,300 acres) lays in South Carolina. Additional lands were added to Ellicott Rock Wilderness in 1984 with the passing of the North Carolina Wilderness Act and the Georgia Wilderness Act, today designated wilderness totals 8,274 acres (33.48 km2). Ellicott Rock Wilderness is the only wilderness that straddles three states, with boundaries located around the point at which Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina come together. Ellicott Rock Wilderness also spans three National Forests. Sumter National Forest in South Carolina is responsible for 2,859 acres (11.57 km2), receives the majority of recreation in the wilderness, and is also the lead manager of Ellicott Rock Wilderness. Nantahala National Forest in North Carolina is responsible for the majority of the wilderness at 3,394 acres (13.74 km2) and the Chattahoochee National Forest in Georgia manages 2,021 acres (8.18 km2) of the wilderness. In 1979, all Forest Service land was surveyed under the Roadless Area Review and Evaluation (RARE II) and 1,982 acres (8.02 km2) on the Sumter National Forest (adjacent to the existing wilderness) were classified as Roadless National Forest System land and named Ellicott Rock Extension. The Andrew Pickens Ranger district on the Sumter National Forest recommended the Ellicott Rock Extension as wilderness in 1995 in their Resource Management Plan. Although not fully designated, recommended wilderness is managed as if it were designated wilderness. In June 2017 during a land management plan revision, the Nantahala Ranger District on the Nantahala National Forest added 824 acres (3.33 km2) of proposed wilderness, currently called Ellicott Rock West Extension.
Ellicott Rock Wilderness is named for “Ellicott's Rock,” a rock on the east bank of the Chattooga Wild and Scenic River on which surveyor Major Andrew Ellicott chiseled a mark in 1811 to determine the border between Georgia and North Carolina. Major Ellicott, a well-respected, sought-after surveyor, astronomer, and mathematician, was hired by the state of Georgia to ground-truth the 35th parallel and settle a border dispute between Georgia and North Carolina. The task proved long and arduous, saw difficult terrain, and the location was not accessible by horse. On December 26 with severe weather and limited food, Major Ellicott calculated the 35th parallel and inscribed the letters "N-G" on a rock along the Chattooga Wild and Scenic River. This put the Georgia-North Carolina border approximately 18 miles south of what Georgia claimed at the time. Due to Georgia's unfavorable results, Major Ellicott went unpaid for over a year and was ultimately paid a tiny fraction of the salary promised. Two years later, a group of commissioners representing both North and South Carolina set out to verify the location of Ellicott's Rock. The commissioners carved a second rock (approximately 10 feet north of Ellicott's Rock) with the inscription "Lat 35 AD 1813 NC + SC" to mark where the North Carolina and South Carolina state lines joined together. This second rock is commonly referred to as Ellicott's Rock though more accurately it is named Commissioner's Rock. Commissioner's Rock was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on July 24, 1973.
The sparkling gem within Ellicott Rock Wilderness both at the time of wilderness designation up until today is the Chattooga Wild and Scenic River. The Chattooga Wild and Scenic River bisects Ellicott Rock Wilderness, running through the heart of the wilderness. Made famous more than 45 years ago from the book and later movie, Deliverance, the Chattooga Wild and Scenic River is a prized feature among visitors to Ellicott Rock Wilderness. Many people can be found along the River enjoying the water, fishing, camping, and boating. There is a strong cultural tie to recreation uses along this river and it maintains a special place in the hearts of its frequent visitors.
Ellicott Rock Wilderness is located in the southern tip of the Blue Ridge Mountains, a sub-mountain range of the Appalachian Mountains. It has a temperate climate with an average rainfall of 80 inches per year creating a dense forest with steep, rugged terrain. Embedded throughout the wilderness landscape are a variety of hardwood trees (creating breathtaking scenes come fall), white pines, and hemlocks with bountiful water sources including a couple waterfalls. One popular waterfall, Spoonauger Falls, is located on the Chattooga River Trail, a short quarter-mile hike from the trailhead located on Burrell's Ford road. The Wilderness is home to Glade Mountain of Georgia standing at an elevation of 3,672-foot (1,119 m) and Fork Mountain of South Carolina at an elevation of 3,294-foot (1,004 m). The watershed surrounding the Chattooga Wild and Scenic River is one of the most biologically diverse in the country. The wonderful array of sights, sounds, and smalls of the wild flora and fauna bring Ellicott Rock Wilderness to life.
A variety of recreation occurs in Ellicott Rock Wilderness including hiking, camping, backpacking, fishing, hunting, kayaking, and orienteering. The Wilderness supports approximately 18 miles of designated terrestrial trails. South Carolina trails include Chattooga River Trail, East Fork Trail, Foothills Connector Trail, and a majority of the Fork Mountain Trail. North Carolina has one trail, Ellicott Rock Trail, with two trailheads along Bull Creek Road and a big river crossing in the middle. Georgia does not maintain any trails. While there are no officially designated campsites in Ellicott Rock Wilderness yet, many unofficial campsites occur along the trails, particularly along the Chattooga River trail. Unofficial campsites are primitive with no amenities.
The wilderness embodies many examples of life in the Appalachian Mountains pre-civilization and provides a wonderful escape to millions from the accustomed hustle and bustle of city life.
What is wilderness?
Ellicott Rock Wilderness is part of the 110 million acre National Wilderness Preservation System. This system of wild federal land is designated by Congress and protected under the Wilderness Act of 1964. Wilderness land consist of some of the most wild, undisturbed places in the United States. Wilderness has five special characteristics: untrammeled, natural, undeveloped, opportunities for solitude and primitive recreation, and other features of value. Wilderness often has less recreational amenities and more restrictions and prohibitions.Hells Canyon Wilderness (Oregon and Idaho)
The Hells Canyon Wilderness is a wilderness area in the western United States, in Idaho and Oregon. Created 44 years ago in 1975, the Wilderness is managed by both the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service and contains some of the most spectacular sections of the Snake River as it winds its way through Hells Canyon, North America's deepest river gorge and one of the deepest gorges on Earth. The Oregon Wilderness Act of 1984 added additional acreage and currently the area protects a total area of 217,927 acres (88,192 ha). It lies entirely within the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area except for a small 946-acre (383 ha) plot in southeastern Wallowa County, Oregon which is administered by the Bureau of Land Management. The area that is administered by the Forest Service consists of portions of (in descending order of acreage) the Wallowa, Nez Perce, Payette, and Whitman National Forests.Howard Zahniser
Howard Clinton Zahniser (February 25, 1906 – May 5, 1964) was an American environmental activist. For nearly 20 years, he helped lead The Wilderness Society as executive secretary, executive director, and editor of The Living Wilderness, from 1945 to 1964. Zahniser is noted for being the primary author of the Wilderness Act of 1964.Lone Peak Wilderness
The Lone Peak Wilderness is a 30,088-acre (121.76 km2) wilderness area located within the Uinta and the Wasatch-Cache National Forest in the U.S. state of Utah.
The Lone Peak Wilderness was established in 1978 as part of the Endangered American Wilderness Act and was the only designated wilderness area in Utah until the enactment of the Utah Wilderness Act of 1984. Situated in the central Wasatch range on the Wasatch-Cache and Uinta National Forests, this wilderness is generally bounded on the north by Little Cottonwood Canyon, on the South by American Fork Canyon, on the west by the Salt Lake and Utah Valleys, and on the east by Twin Peaks. Timpanogos Cave National Monument is adjacent to the south boundary of the Wilderness.Lostwood Wilderness
Lostwood Wilderness is a wilderness area located in the U.S. state of North Dakota. Created by an act of Congress in 1975, the wilderness covers an area of 5,577 acres (22.56 km2). Contained within Lostwood National Wildlife Refuge, the wilderness is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Designated to preserve a region well known for numerous lakes and mixed grass prairie, the wilderness ensures that the finest duck and waterfowl breeding region in North America remains wild and unimproved.
U.S. Wilderness Areas do not allow motorized or mechanized vehicles, including bicycles. Although camping and fishing are usually allowed with a proper permit, no roads or buildings are constructed and there is also no logging or mining, in compliance with the 1964 Wilderness Act. Wilderness areas within National Forests and Bureau of Land Management areas also allow hunting in season.Medicine Lake Wilderness
The Medicine Lake Wilderness is located in eastern Montana, in the United States. Preserved to ensure migratory birds have a haven during the spring and fall migrations, the wilderness is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and is within Medicine Lake National Wildlife Refuge.
U.S. Wilderness Areas do not allow motorized or mechanized vehicles, including bicycles. Although camping and fishing are allowed with proper permit, no roads or buildings are constructed and there is also no logging or mining, in compliance with the 1964 Wilderness Act. Wilderness areas within National Forests and Bureau of Land Management areas also allow hunting in season. No hunting is permitted in this wilderness.Mokelumne Wilderness
The Mokelumne Wilderness is a 105,165-acre (425.59 km2) federally designated wilderness area located 70 miles (110 km) east of Sacramento, California. It is within the boundaries of three national forests: Stanislaus, Eldorado and Toiyabe. First protected under the Wilderness Act of 1964, the Mokelumne’s borders were expanded under the California Wilderness Act of 1984 with the addition of 55,000 acres. The wilderness takes its name from the Mokelumne River, which was named after a Mi-wok Indian village located on the riverbank in California's Central Valley.The wilderness encompasses an area of the Sierra Nevada mountain range between Ebbetts Pass to Carson Pass. There are two sections separated by the Blue Lakes Road and an Off-Road Vehicle corridor.
Elevations range from 4,000 feet (1,200 m) to 10,381 feet (3,164 m). The highest point is Round Top (10,364 feet), a remnant volcano from which the wilderness area's volcanic soils are derived from and is located on the east side of the Sierra crest.National Wilderness Preservation System
The National Wilderness Preservation System (NWPS) of the United States protects federally managed wilderness areas designated for preservation in their natural condition. Activity on formally designated wilderness areas is coordinated by the National Wilderness Preservation System. Wilderness areas are managed by four federal land management agencies: the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Bureau of Land Management. The term "wilderness" is defined as "an area where the earth and community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain" and "an area of undeveloped Federal land retaining its primeval character and influence, without permanent improvements or human habitation, which is protected and managed so as to preserve its natural conditions." As of 2016, there are 765 designated wilderness areas, totaling 109,129,657 acres (44,163,205 ha), or about 4.5% of the area of the United States.Platte River Wilderness
The Platte River Wilderness is primarily located in south central Wyoming, with a small section extending into Colorado in the United States. Located entirely within Medicine Bow - Routt National Forest, the wilderness was created in 1984 to protect the forestlands adjacent to the North Platte River. The Wyoming section lies within the original Medicine Bow National Forest, whereas the Colorado section is in the original Routt National Forest; since 1995 these have been administratively combined.U.S. Wilderness Areas do not allow motorized or mechanized vehicles, including bicycles. Although camping and fishing are allowed with proper permit, no roads or buildings are constructed and there is also no logging or mining, in compliance with the 1964 Wilderness Act. Wilderness areas within National Forests and Bureau of Land Management areas also allow hunting in season.Red Buttes Wilderness
The Red Buttes Wilderness is a wilderness area in the Klamath and Rogue River national forests in the U.S. states of Oregon and California. It comprises 19,940 acres (8,070 ha), approximately 16,190 acres (6,550 ha) of which is located in California, and 3,750 acres (1,520 ha) in Oregon. It was established by the California Wilderness Act of 1984 and the Oregon Wilderness Act of 1984.Snow Mountain Wilderness
The Snow Mountain Wilderness is a 60,076-acre (243.12 km2) federally designated wilderness area located 65 miles (105 km) north of Santa Rosa, California, USA in the Mendocino National Forest. The U.S. Congress passed the California Wilderness Act of 1984 which created 23 new wilderness areas including Snow Mountain. It lies within the North Coast Range of mountains.
Elevations are from 1,800 feet (500 m) to 7,056 feet (2,151 m). The wilderness covers the crest of this North Coast Range mountain divide for 13 miles (21 km) and the summit area includes two peaks, East (7,050 ft) and West (7,021 ft).
On October 17, 2006 the Northern California Coastal Wild Heritage Wilderness Act was signed into law (Public Law No: 109-362) which added 23,706 acres (95.93 km2) to the Snow Mountain Wilderness. In July 2015, the area became part of Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument.
The Trough Fire burned 24,970 acres (101.1 km2) of Snow Mountain Wilderness and national forest land in August 2001. More than 12 million dollars was spent to contain the wildfire even though most of the area was within the wilderness boundary. This human-caused wildfire started near Fouts Springs, an off-road vehicle recreational area in Mendocino National Forest.South Warner Wilderness
The South Warner Wilderness is a federally designated wilderness area 12 miles (19 km) east of Alturas, California, USA. It encompasses more than 70,000 acres (283 km2) of the Warner Mountains.
It is within the Modoc National Forest and managed by the US Forest Service. Elevations range from 5,000 feet (1,500 m) to 9,895 feet at Eagle Peak.
The highest parts of the Warner Mountains were set aside in 1931 as a primitive area. In 1964, the Wilderness Act created the South Warner Wilderness. In 1984, 1,940 acres (7.9 km2) were added to the wilderness with the passage of the California Wilderness Act.The Warner crest divides waters that flow west into the Sacramento/Pit River drainage, and east into the Great Basin Alkali lakes of Surprise Valley. Much of the crest is a narrow ridgeline with notable peaks such as Emerson Peak and Squaw Peak. The eastern side of the wilderness is a steep, abrupt escarpment of volcanic terrain of cliff bands and terraces. Very different from the east side are the western slopes. Heavily forested, steadily rising slopes furrowed by several drainages such as Mill Creek.
The west side also includes a portion of a 6,016-acre (2,435 ha) state game refuge.Strawberry Mountain Wilderness
Strawberry Mountain Wilderness is a wilderness area of the Strawberry Mountain Range, within Malheur National Forest in the Blue Mountains of east Oregon. The area comprises 69,350 acres (28,060 ha), including mountain peaks and several lakes, and contains more than 125 miles (201 km) of hiking trails. Strawberry Mountain was designated wilderness under the Wilderness Act of 1964, and in 1984 more than doubled in size with the passage of the Oregon Wilderness Act. It is managed by the United States Forest Service.The Wilderness Society (United States)
The Wilderness Society is an American non-profit land conservation organization that is dedicated to protecting natural areas and federal public lands in the United States. They advocate for the designation of federal wilderness areas and other protective designations, such as for national monuments. They support balanced uses of public lands, and advocate for federal politicians to enact various land conservation and balanced land use proposals. The Wilderness Society also engages in a number of ancillary activities, including education and outreach, and hosts one of the most valuable collections of Ansel Adams photographs at their headquarters in Washington, D.C.The Wilderness Society specializes in issues involving lands under the management of federal agencies; such lands include national parks, national forests, national wildlife refuges, and areas overseen by the Bureau of Land Management. In the early 21st century, the society has been active in fighting recent political efforts to reduce protection for America’s roadless and undeveloped lands and wildlife.
The organization was instrumental in the passage of the 1964 Wilderness Act. This created the National Wilderness Preservation System, which now protects nearly 110 million acres of U.S. public wildlands in all 50 states. As one of the largest conservationist organizations in the country, the Wilderness Society has contributed to nearly all major designations of lands to be entered into the wilderness system.Ventana Wilderness
The Ventana Wilderness of Los Padres National Forest is a federally designated wilderness area located in the Santa Lucia Range along the Central Coast of California. This wilderness was established in 1969 when the Ventana Wilderness Act redesignated the 55,800-acre (22,600 ha) Ventana Primitive Area as the Ventana Wilderness and added land, totalling 98,000-acre (40,000 ha). In 1978, the Endangered American Wilderness Act added 61,000 acres (25,000 ha), increasing the total wilderness area to about 159,000 acres (64,000 ha). The California Wilderness Act of 1984 added about 2,750 acres (1,113 ha). The Los Padres Condor Range and River Protection Act of 1992 created the approximately 14,500-acre (5,900 ha) Silver Peak Wilderness and added about 38,800 acres (15,700 ha) to the Ventana Wilderness in addition to designating the Big Sur River as a Wild and Scenic River. Most recently, the Big Sur Wilderness and Conservation Act of 2002 expanded the wilderness for the fifth time, adding nearly 35,000 acres (14,000 ha), increasing the total acreage of the wilderness to its present size of 240,026 acres (97,135 ha).Wild by Law
Wild by Law: The Rise of Environmentalism and the Creation of the Wilderness Act is a 1991 documentary film produced by Lawrence Hott and Diane Garey. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.The film is about the work of Aldo Leopold, Bob Marshall, founder of The Wilderness Society and Howard Zahniser. The film gives the philosophical and political underpinnings of the Wilderness Act of 1964. It was narrated by Linda Hunt.