THE WILDERNESS ACT OF 1964

 
   
  There are currently 756 federally designated wilderness areas in the US, which contain 109,494,508 acres of land.  For additional statistics, go to the Wilderness.net website.  Currently, there is pending legislation to designate nearly 40 million additional acres of additional land as federal wilderness.

The Wilderness.net website has a current Wilderness Map of the United States.  They also have a " Fast Facts" section of their website that provides detailed information about the existing designated Wilderness areas in the US.

THE EXISTING WILDERNESS AREAS IN THE U.S. ARE A MILLION ACRES LARGER THAN THE STATES OF CALIFORNIA, MARYLAND AND DELAWARE COMBINED

Below is a map of all federally owned lands, showing a disproportionate amount of federally owned lands in the western United States.

Qualification for Federal Wilderness Designation

The first step is to understand what the Federal designation of "Wilderness" really involves.  "Wilderness" is not simply a large area of open space.  Federal Wilderness Designation has a very specific and detailed legislative definition, including a wide-sweeping collection of restrictions and prohibitions.  In reality, a very low percentage of the total land base of the United States meets the rigorous qualifications for Federal Wilderness designation. 

A simple look into the realities of Federal agency management in designated Wilderness areas is a much better way to gain an accurate understanding of the true impacts of the Federal Wilderness designation.  Although it may or may not have not been the original intent of the Wilderness Act, the ultimate objective and use of the Act today is to restrict or eliminate access to the areas in an effort to "remove human impact" from the land.

FEDERAL WILDERNESS DESIGNATION AND MANY OTHER FEDERAL LAND MANAGEMENT DESIGNATIONS CENTER AROUND THE REDUCTION OR THE COMPLETE ELIMINATION OF THE PRESENCE OF MAN FROM THE LAND.

IRONICALLY, THE "PROTECTIONS" AGAINST MAN ARE QUICKLY FOLLOWED BY THE PROMISES OF FUTURE ENJOYMENT BY MAN AND HIS DESCENDANTS.

Read the article " Wilderness Act Hijacked" by William Rice for more background on this disturbing trend.

 

   
 
The Wilderness Act of 1964 established the National Wilderness Preservation System within national forests.  It is considered an "organic act" that sets the standard and guidance for acts designating specific wilderness areas, including those administered by other federal agencies in addition to the USFS (United States Forest Service).

For details, see the following documents:

Wilderness Act Summary
Wilderness Act of 1964
FLPMA (Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976)

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.  An area of wilderness is further defined to mean in this chapter an area of underdeveloped Federal land retaining its primeval character and influence, without permanent improvements or human habitation, which is protected and managed to preserve its natural conditions and which (1) generally appears to have been affected primarily by the forces of nature, with the imprint of man's work substantially unnoticeable; (2) has outstanding opportunities for solitude or a primitive and unconfined type of recreation; (3) has at least five thousand acres of land or is of sufficient size as to make practicable its preservation and use in an unimpaired condition; and (4) may also contain ecological, geological, or other features of scientific, educational, scenic, or historic value."

Stated primary purposes: "...wilderness areas shall be devoted to the public purposes of recreational, scenic, scientific, educations, conservation, and historical use."

Prohibition of Certain Uses:  "Except as specifically provided for in this chapter, and subject to existing private rights, there shall be no commercial enterprise and no permanent road within the wilderness area designated in this chapter and, except as necessary to meet minimum requirements for the administration of the area for the purpose of this chapter (including measures required in emergencies involving the health and safety of the persons within the area), there shall be no temporary road, no use of motor vehicles, motorized equipment or motorboats, no landing of aircraft, no other forms of mechanical transport, and no structure or installation within any such area."

It is important to understand that bicycles and motorized wheelchairs are prohibited and can not be used in a designated Wilderness area.

Every new wilderness bill is in effect an amendment to the Wilderness Act of 1964.  Most bills have some special provisions, but special provisions are difficult to get passed, and only pass if congress concludes that they are consistent with the "intent" of the original Wilderness Act.

The words in the eloquent definition of wilderness in the 1964 Act have not been changed, but their meaning has been diluted because of special allowances by Congress in many recent wilderness bills. 

In the beginning, wilderness was found in remote and primitive areas where the sights and sounds of civilization did not impinge on the solitude of those special areas created by God and discovered by man.  Roads did not exist, motorized vehicles could not realistically travel, and the imprint of man was barely recognized.

Now we have "wilderness" with roads that are excluded only by lines drawn on a map and they are called "cherry stems".  Man's imprint exists, but has been blurred by efforts to remove it.  We find "wilderness" that lies near heavily populated areas where the sights and sounds of civilization are clearly seen and heard.

The result is not wilderness, but something that at best is only a facsimile.
 

   
   
  Glenda Price wrote a research paper which was presented at the National Cowboy Symposium and Celebration in Lubbock, Texas on September 7, 2007.  She was kind enough to allow us to reprint her compelling paper on our website.  The title is "What - Exactly - is Wilderness?".   In her conclusion, she states:

Remember Karl Marxs observation: the theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property.

   
   
  BLM Statistics - Comparing 1976 to 2000

For an idea of how land management agencies have changed as a result of legislation like the Wilderness Act of 1964 and FLPMA, see the following page of statistics available on the BLM website.

Prior to the passing of FLPMA, the BLM managed 450 million surface acres.  In 2000, they managed 264 million surface acres, a reduction of 186 million acres.

Over the same period, the number of employees rose from 4,530 in 1976 to 10,000 in 2000, an increase of 5,470 employees

The acreage in National Conservation Areas and National Monuments was 57,000 acres in 1976, and skyrocketed to 19 MILLION acres in 2000.

And finally, there were 0 acres of designated Wilderness and Wilderness Study Areas in 1976.  In 2000, the BLM reported nearly 23.5 MILLION acres of land in Wilderness and WSA designation.

See the complete statistics from the BLM here.