Wilderness: Overview, Management, and Statistics [Updated July 29, 2022]   [open pdf - 1MB]

From the Summary: "Congress enacted the Wilderness Act in 1964. This act created the National Wilderness Preservation System, reserved to Congress the authority to designate wilderness areas, and directed the Secretaries of Agriculture and of the Interior to review certain lands' potential wilderness designation. The act also designated 54 wilderness areas with 9 million acres of federal land. Congress began expanding the Wilderness System in 1968. As of July 6, 2022, there are 803 wilderness areas, totaling approximately 112 million acres, in 44 states and Puerto Rico. Numerous bills to designate additional wilderness areas and to expand existing ones have been introduced and considered in every Congress since the act's passage. The Wilderness Act defined 'wilderness' as an area of undeveloped federal land, among other criteria, but due to differing perceptions of wilderness and its purpose, it did not establish criteria or standards to determine whether an area should be so designated. In general, wilderness areas are undeveloped; commercial activities, motorized access, and roads, structures, and facilities are prohibited in wilderness areas. In response to conflicting demands, however, Congress has granted both general exemptions and specific exceptions to the general standards and prohibitions. Questions persist over the frequency and extent to which federal agencies must review the wilderness potential of their lands, and how those lands should be managed."

Report Number:
CRS Report for Congress, RL31447
Public Domain
Retrieved From:
Congressional Research Service: https://crsreports.congress.gov/
Media Type:
Help with citations