A wilderness area is a region where the land is in a natural state; where impacts from human activities are minimal—that is, as a wilderness. It might also be called a wild or natural area. Especially in wealthier, industrialized nations, it has a specific legal meaning as well: as land where development is prohibited by law. Many nations have designated Wilderness Areas, including Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and the United States.
The WILD Foundation states that wilderness areas have two dimensions: they must be biologically intact and legally protected. The World Conservation Union (IUCN) classifies wilderness at two levels, Ia (Strict Nature Preserves) and Ib (Wilderness areas).
Most scientists and conservationists agree that no place on earth is completely untouched by humanity, either due to past occupation by indigenous people, or through global processes such as climate change. Activities on the margins of specific wilderness areas, such as fire suppression and the interruption of animal migration, also affect the interior of wildernesses.
There are twelve wilderness areas in the Sami native region in northern Finnish Lapland. They are intended both to preserve the wilderness character of the areas and further the traditional livelihood of the Sami people. This means e.g. that reindeer husbandry, hunting and taking wood for use in the household is permitted. As population is very sparse, this is generally no big threat to the nature. Large scale reindeer husbandry has influence on the ecosystem, but no change is introduced by the act on wilderness areas. The World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA) classifies the areas as "VI Protected area with sustainable use of natural resources".
Since 1861, The French Waters and Forests Military Agency (Administration des Eaux et Forêts) put a strong protection on what was called the « artistic reserve » in Fontainebleau State Forest. With a total of 1 097 hectares, it is known to be the first World nature reserve.
Then in the 1950s, Integral Biological Reserves (Réserves Biologiques Intégrales, RBI) are dedicated to interference-free ecosystem evolution, on the contrary of Managed Biological reserves (Réserves Biologiques Dirigées, RBD) where a specific management is applied to conserve vulnerable species or threatened habitats.
Integral Biological Reserves occurs in French State Forests or City Forests and are therefore managed nowadays by the National Forests Office. In such reserves, all harvests coupe are forbidden excepted exotic species elimination or track safety works to avoid fallen tree risk to visitors (already existing tracks in or on the edge of the reserve).
At the end of 2014, there were 60 Integral Biological Reserves in French State Forests for a total area of 111 082 hectares and 10 in City Forests for a total of 2 835 hectares.
There are seven wilderness areas in New Zealand as defined by the National Parks Act 1980 and the Conservation Act 1987 that fall well within the IUCN definition. Wilderness areas cannot have any human intervention and can only have indigenous species re-introduced into the area if it is compatible with conservation management strategies.
In the United States, a Wilderness Area is an area of federal land set aside by an act of Congress. Human activities in wilderness areas are restricted to scientific study and non-mechanized recreation; horses are permitted but motorized vehicles and equipment are not.
In Western Australia, a Wilderness Area is an area that has a wilderness quality rating of 12 or greater and meets a minimum size threshold of 8,000 hectares in temperate areas or 20,000 hectares in arid and tropical areas. A wilderness area is gazetted under section 62(1)(a) of the Conservation and Land Management Act 1984 by the Minister on any land that is vested in the Conservation Commission of Western Australia.
For a comprehensive review of wilderness areas by country, reference A Handbook on International Wilderness Law and Policy (Cyril F. Kormos, ed).
For the global standard of wilderness protection, governance and management, read Wilderness Protected Areas: Management Guidelines for IUCN Category 1b Protected Areas
The Dominguez Canyon Wilderness is a U.S. Wilderness Area located southeast of Grand Junction in western Colorado. The 66,280-acre (268.2 km2) wilderness area established in 2009, the largest BLM roadless area in the state of Colorado, includes two major canyon systems that drain the northeastern corner of the Uncompahgre Plateau. The Wilderness Area is a portion of the larger Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area, 209,610-acre (848.3 km2) in size.Flat Tops Wilderness Area
Flat Tops Wilderness Area is the third largest U.S. Wilderness Area in Colorado. It is 235,214 acres (951.88 km2), with 38,870 acres (157.3 km2) in Routt National Forest and 196,344 acres (794.58 km2) in White River National Forest. It was designated a wilderness area in 1975. Trappers Lake, located in the north of the area, was the lake that inspired Arthur Carhart, a United States Forest Service official, to plead for wilderness preservation.Ghost River Wilderness Area
The Ghost River Wilderness Area is a provincially designated wilderness area in the Canadian Rockies of Alberta. It was established in 1967 and it, as one of the three Wilderness Areas of Alberta, has the strictest form of government protection available in Canada. All development is forbidden and only travel by foot is permitted. Hunting and fishing are not allowed. The other two Wilderness Areas are White Goat Wilderness Area and Siffleur Wilderness Area and together the three areas total 249,548.80 acres (100,988.82 ha).Situated west of the city of Calgary and bordering Banff National Park, the Ghost Wilderness spans the area north of the Trans-Canada Highway (Highway 1) along the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains up to the Red Deer River. It lies just slightly north of Lake Minnewanka. Mountains rise to 3,353 metres (11,001 ft). The area has rugged mountains, glacier-carved valleys, mountain lakes, and alpine meadows. There are two distinct vegetation zones. Above 2,100 metres (6,900 ft), the tree line, are grasses, sedges and wildflowers. Below that are subalpine forests of spruce, fir, and lodgepole pine. There are many rare species of butterflies. Animals include Bighorn Sheep, deer, moose, cougars, bears, wild horses, and timber wolves. The area is a world-class venue for ice climbing.The area was also a filming location for the Academy Award-winning 1994 epic drama film Legends of the Fall.Indian Peaks Wilderness
The Indian Peaks Wilderness is a wilderness area in north central Colorado managed jointly by the United States Forest Service and the National Park Service within the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests and small parts of the southern section of Rocky Mountain National Park. It borders the James Peak Wilderness to the south, and straddles the Continental Divide. The area receives high visitation due to its proximity to the Denver metropolitan area.Jay Mountain (New York)
Jay Mountain is the 79th highest peak of the Adirondack Mountains. It is located in Essex County, New York, in the Jay Mountain Wilderness Area, within the towns of Jay and Lewis.John Muir Wilderness
The John Muir Wilderness is a wilderness area that extends along the crest of the Sierra Nevada of California for 90 miles (140 km), in the Inyo and Sierra National Forests. Established in 1964 by the Wilderness Act and named for naturalist John Muir, it contains 581,000 acres (2,350 km2). The wilderness lies along the eastern escarpment of the Sierra from near Mammoth Lakes and Devils Postpile National Monument in the north, to Cottonwood Pass near Mount Whitney in the south. The wilderness area also spans the Sierra crest north of Kings Canyon National Park, and extends on the west side of the park down to the Monarch Wilderness.La Garita Wilderness
The La Garita Wilderness is a U.S. Wilderness Area located in the La Garita Mountains of southern Colorado. The 129,626-acre (524.58 km2) wilderness established in 1964 in Gunnison and Rio Grande National Forests includes segments of the Colorado Trail and the Continental Divide Trail. At 14,014 feet (4,271 m), San Luis Peak is the highest point in the wilderness area.
One entrance to the wilderness area is via Forest Road 787 from Saguache Park and Cochetopa Park off State Highway 114 west of Saguache, Colorado. There is a parking lot for visitors to the wilderness area at the south end of FS 787. Cochetopa Park may also be entered from the east over Cochetopa Pass via Saguache County Road NN14.List of Wilderness Areas in the Adirondack Park
This is a list of designated wilderness areas within the Adirondack Park in the Adirondack Mountains, and part of the New York Forest Preserve. Wilderness area account for 46% of the area of the park which is not private property. They are managed like federal wilderness areas. These areas are far more affected by nature than humanity, to the extent that the latter is practically unnoticeable, for example virgin forest. No powered vehicles are allowed in wilderness areas.
Blue Ridge Wilderness Area - 45,736 acres (185.09 km2)
Dix Mountain Wilderness Area - 45,208 acres (182.95 km2)
Five Ponds Wilderness Area - 117,978 acres (447.44 km2)
Giant Mountain Wilderness Area - 22,768 acres (92.14 km2)
Ha-De-Ron-Dah Wilderness Area - 26,528 acres (107.36 km2)
High Peaks Wilderness Area - 192,685 acres (779.77 km2)
Hoffman Notch Wilderness Area - 36,231 acres (146.62 km2)
Jay Mountain Wilderness Area - 7,100 acres (28.7 km2)
McKenzie Mountain Wilderness Area - 37,616 acres (152.23 km2)
Pepperbox Wilderness Area - 22,560 acres (91.30 km2)
Pharaoh Lake Wilderness Area - 45,883 acres (185.68 km2)
Pigeon Lake Wilderness Area - 50,100 acres (202.8 km2)
Round Lake Wilderness Area - 11,000 acres (44.5 km2)
Sentinel Range Wilderness Area - 23,252 acres (94.10 km2)
Siamese Ponds Wilderness Area - 112,524 acres (455.37 km2)
Silver Lake Wilderness Area - 105,270 acres (426.01 km2)
West Canada Lake Wilderness Area - 156,695 acres (634.12 km2)
William C. Whitney Wilderness Area - 20,500 acres (83.0 km2)The 19,000-acre (77 km2) Saint Regis Canoe Area, presently the only Canoe Area in the park, operates under essentially the same conditions as the Wilderness Areas.Mount Evans Wilderness
The Mount Evans Wilderness is a U.S. Wilderness Area in Arapaho National Forest and Pike National Forest about 30 miles (48 km) west of Denver, Colorado. The wilderness area is named after Mount Evans.Mount Jefferson Wilderness
The Mount Jefferson Wilderness is a wilderness area located on and around Mount Jefferson in the central Cascade Range of Oregon in the United States. It is situated where the Willamette, Deschutes, and Mount Hood National Forests meet. Mount Jefferson Wilderness is the second most visited Oregon wilderness area after the Three Sisters Wilderness.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.Opal Creek Wilderness
The Opal Creek Wilderness is a wilderness area located in the Willamette National Forest in the U.S. state of Oregon, on the border of the Mount Hood National Forest. It has the largest uncut watershed in Oregon.Opal Creek and nearby Opal Lake were named for Opal Elliott, wife of early Forest Service ranger Roy Elliott.Otis Pike Fire Island High Dune Wilderness
The Otis Pike Fire Island High Dune Wilderness, also known as the Otis G. Pike Wilderness Area or the Fire Island Wilderness, is a federally protected wilderness area located on Fire Island, a barrier island off the south shore of Long Island, New York, United States. The 1,380-acre (5.6 km2; 2.16 sq mi) wilderness is contained within the larger Fire Island National Seashore.The wilderness area, named for former New York congressman Otis G. Pike, is the only federally designated wilderness area in New York State, and one of the smallest wilderness areas managed by the National Park Service.Pemigewasset Wilderness
The Pemigewasset Wilderness is a 45,000-acre (182 km2) federally designated Wilderness Area in the heart of New Hampshire's White Mountains. It is a part of the White Mountain National Forest. It is New Hampshire's largest wilderness area.The Wilderness Area consists of the upper watershed of the East Branch of the Pemigewasset River, and includes the Franconia, Twin, Zealand, and Hancock mountain ranges, but excludes the summits of the ranges and the trail along them. As a result of the region's rugged character, the Pemigewasset Wilderness is a popular recreation area; its large trail network receives heavy use, in the form of hiking, cross-country skiing, and others, throughout the year.
The area is also noted for its ecological recovery from the logging era of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. After years of unchecked clear-cutting, during which the zone had the largest logging railroad system in the White Mountains, the area's inclusion in the White Mountain National Forest and later designation as a Wilderness Area has led to a substantial rebound in the forest ecosystem.Roaring River Wilderness
Roaring River Wilderness is a wilderness area in the Mount Hood National Forest in Clackamas County, Oregon, United States. Southwest of Mount Hood, Oregon's tallest mountain, the 36,500-acre (14,800 ha) area was created in 2009. The wilderness area is named after the Roaring River that flows through the area and is a tributary of the Clackamas River.Siffleur Wilderness Area
The Siffleur Wilderness Area is a provincially designated wilderness area in the Canadian Rockies of Alberta. It was established in 1961 and it, as one of the three wilderness areas of Alberta, has the strictest form of government protection available in Canada. All development is forbidden and only travel by foot is permitted. Hunting and fishing are not allowed. The other two wilderness areas are White Goat Wilderness Area and Ghost River Wilderness Area and together the three areas total 249,548.80 acres (100,988.82 ha).Siffleur is located near the west end and south side of Canadian Highway 11 and slightly south of the White Goat Wilderness area. It is near the north end of Banff National Park and the south end of Jasper National Park. Mountains rise to 3,300 metres (10,800 ft). The area has rugged mountains, glacier-carved valleys, mountain lakes, and alpine meadows. There are two distinct vegetation zones. Above 2,100 metres (6,900 ft), the tree line, are grasses, sedges and wildflowers. Below that are subalpine forests of spruce, fir, and lodgepole pine. At even lower elevations there are aspen and balsam poplar. Animals in the lower regions include woodland caribou, moose, elk, white-tailed deer, mule deer, grizzly bear, black bear, cougar, coyote, timber wolf, and wolverine. Animals in the upper regions include golden-mantled ground squirrels, bighorn sheep, mountain goat, hoary marmot, pika, white-tailed ptarmigan, grey-crowned rosy finch, water pipit and horned lark. Eagles are seen in both the lower and upper regions.Like Siffleur Mountain and Siffleur River, the French siffleur name was applied by James Hector in 1858 for the shrill whistles of the marmot which inhabit the area.Siskiyou Wilderness
The Siskiyou Wilderness is a federal wilderness area designated by the passage of the California Wilderness Act of 1984. Originally, the land area was 153,000 acres (620 km2) The Northern California Wild Heritage Act of 2006 added 30,122 acres (121.90 km2) for the current total of 182,802 acres (739.77 km2). All of the wilderness is in Northern California and is managed by the U.S. Forest Service. The wilderness spans three national forests: the Rogue River–Siskiyou, the Klamath, and the Six Rivers.
The Siskiyou Mountains form one of the longest continuous crests in the Klamath Mountains region. Elevations range from 770 feet (230 m) to the summit of Preston Peak at 7,309 feet (2,228 m) above sea level. Trending in a north–south direction from the Oregon border down to near the town of Weitchpec and 20 miles (32 km) inland from the Pacific Ocean, the Siskiyous are dotted by rocky peaks rising over 6,000 feet (1,800 m) from the surrounding lowlands.West Canada Lake Wilderness Area
The West Canada Lake Wilderness Area is an Adirondack Park Forest Preserve management unit in the State of New York, USA.
The area contains 168 bodies of water covering 2,400 acres (9.7 km2), 78.3 miles (126 km) of foot trails, and 11 lean-tos. The 138-mile (222 km) Northville-Placid Trail traverses it.White Goat Wilderness Area
The White Goat Wilderness Area is a provincially designated wilderness area in the Canadian Rockies of Alberta. It was established in 1961 and it, as one of the three wilderness areas of Alberta, has the strictest form of government protection available in Canada. All development is forbidden and only travel by foot is permitted. Hunting and fishing are not allowed. The other two wilderness areas are Ghost River Wilderness Area and Siffleur Wilderness Area and together the three areas total 249,548.80 acres (100,988.82 ha).White Goat is located near the west end and north side of Canadian Highway 11 and slightly north of the Siffleur Wilderness area. It is near the north end of Banff National Park, the south end of Jasper National Park, and east of the Columbia Icefield. Mountains rise to over 3,300 metres (10,800 ft). The area has rugged mountains, glacier-carved valleys, mountain lakes, waterfalls, and alpine meadows. There are two distinct vegetation zones. Above 2,100 metres (6,900 ft), the tree line, are grasses, sedges and wildflowers. Below that are spruce, fir, and lodgepole pine. Animals in the lower regions include woodland caribou, moose, elk, white-tailed deer, mule deer, grizzly bear, black bear, cougar, coyote, timber wolf, and wolverine. Animals in the upper regions include golden-mantled ground squirrels, bighorn sheep, mountain goat, hoary marmot, pika, white-tailed ptarmigan, grey-crowned rosy finch, water pipit and horned lark. Eagles are seen in both the lower and upper regions.