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." 109,129,657 acres (44,163,205 ha), or about 4.5% of the area of the United States.As of 2016, there are 765 designated wilderness areas, totaling
Wilderness or wildland is a natural environment on Earth that has not been significantly modified by human activity. It may also be defined as: "The most intact, undisturbed wild natural areas left on our planet—those last truly wild places that humans do not control and have not developed with roads, pipelines or other industrial infrastructure." The term has traditionally referred to terrestrial environments, though growing attention is being placed on marine wilderness. Recent maps of wilderness suggest it covers roughly one quarter of Earth's terrestrial surface, but is being rapidly degraded by human activity. Even less wilderness remains in the ocean, with only 13.2% free from intense human activity.
The National Park Service (NPS) is an agency of the United States federal government that manages all national parks, many national monuments, and other conservation and historical properties with various title designations. It was created on August 25, 1916, by Congress through the National Park Service Organic Act and is an agency of the United States Department of the Interior. The NPS is charged with a dual role of preserving the ecological and historical integrity of the places entrusted to its management, while also making them available and accessible for public use and enjoyment.
The United States Forest Service (USFS) is an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture that administers the nation's 154 national forests and 20 national grasslands, which encompass 193 million acres (780,000 km2). Major divisions of the agency include the National Forest System, State and Private Forestry, Business Operations, and the Research and Development branch. Managing approximately 25% of federal lands, it is the only major national land agency that is outside the U.S. Department of the Interior.
During the 1950s and 1960s, as the American transportation system was on the rise, concern for clean air and water quality began to grow. A conservation movement began to take place with the intent of establishing designated wilderness areas. Howard Zahniser created the first draft of the Wilderness Act in 1956. It took nine years and 65 rewrites before the Wilderness Act was finally passed in 1964. 3, 1964. The Wilderness Act mandated that the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service review all federal lands under their jurisdiction for wilderness areas to include in the NWPS. The first national forest wilderness areas were established by the Wilderness Act itself. The Great Swamp in New Jersey became the first National Wildlife Refuge with formally designated wilderness in 1968. Wilderness areas in national parks followed, beginning with the designation of wilderness in part of Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho in 1970.The Wilderness Act of 1964 (Public Law 88-577), which established the NWPS, was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on September
Howard Clinton Zahniser 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.
The Wilderness Act of 1964 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.
Lyndon Baines Johnson, often referred to as LBJ, was an American politician who served as the 36th president of the United States from 1963 to 1969. Formerly the 37th vice president of the United States from 1961 to 1963, he assumed the presidency following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. A Democrat from Texas, Johnson also served as a United States Representative and as the Majority Leader in the United States Senate. Johnson is one of only four people who have served in all four federal elected positions.
A dramatic spike in acreage added to the wilderness system in 1980 was due in large part to the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, signed into law by President Jimmy Carter on December 2, 1980. 21, 1976, when the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 was signed into law; designation of wilderness areas on BLM lands began in 1978. Over 200 wilderness areas have been created within Bureau of Land Management administered lands since then, consisting of approximately 8.71 million acres (3,520,000 ha) in September 2015.A smaller spike in 1984 came with the passage of many bills establishing national forest wilderness areas identified by the Forest Service's Roadless Area Review and Evaluation (RARE) process. The Bureau of Land Management was not required to review its lands for inclusion in the NWPS until after October
The Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) is a United States federal law passed on November 12, 1980, by the U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Jimmy Carter on December 2 of that year. ANILCA provided varying degrees of special protection to over 157,000,000 acres of land, including national parks, national wildlife refuges, national monuments, wild and scenic rivers, recreational areas, national forests, and conservation areas. It was, and remains to date, the single largest expansion of protected lands in history and more than doubled the size of the National Park System.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is an agency within the United States Department of the Interior that administers more than 247.3 million acres (1,001,000 km2) of public lands in the United States which constitutes one eighth of the landmass of the country. President Harry S. Truman created the BLM in 1946 by combining two existing agencies: the General Land Office and the Grazing Service. The agency manages the federal government's nearly 700 million acres (2,800,000 km2) of subsurface mineral estate located beneath federal, state and private lands severed from their surface rights by the Homestead Act of 1862. Most BLM public lands are located in these 12 western states: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.
The Federal Land Policy and Management Act(FLPMA), is a United States federal law that governs the way in which the public lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management are managed. The law was enacted in 1976 by the 94th Congress and is found in the United States Code under Title 43. The Federal Land Policy and Management Act phased out homesteading in the United States by repealing the pre-existing Homestead Acts.
As of August 2008, a total of 704 separate wilderness areas, encompassing 107,514,938 acres (43,509,752 ha), had become part of the National Wilderness Preservation System. With the passage of the Omnibus Public Lands Act in March 2009, there were 756 wilderness areas. As of September 2015, the system includes 765 wilderness areas totaling 109,129,657 acres (44,163,205 ha).
On federal lands in the United States, Congress may designate an area as wilderness under the provisions of the Wilderness Act of 1964.Multiple agencies, including the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Forest Service, are responsible for the submission of new areas that fit the criteria to become wilderness to congress. Congress then reviews these cases on a state by state basis and determines which areas and how much land in each area will become part of the WPS. There have been multiple occasions in which congress designated more federal land than had been recommended by the nominating agency. Whereas the Wilderness Act stipulated that a wilderness area must be "administered for the use and enjoyment of the American people in such a manner as will leave them unimpaired for future use and enjoyment as wilderness", the Eastern Wilderness Act, which added 16 National Forest areas to the NWPS, allowed for the inclusion of areas that had been severely modified by human interference.
The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the Federal Government of the United States. The legislature consists of two chambers: the House of Representatives and the Senate.
The Eastern Wilderness Areas Act 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.
The Wilderness Act provides criteria for lands being considered for wilderness designation. Though there are some exceptions, the following conditions must be present for an area to be included in the NWPS: (1) the land is under federal ownership and management, (2) the area consists of at least five thousand acres of land, (3) human influence is "substantially unnoticeable," (4) there are opportunities for solitude and recreation, and (5) the area possesses "ecological, geological, or other features of scientific, educational, scenic, or historical value."
Wilderness areas are subject to specific management restrictions; human activities are limited to non-motorized recreation (such as backpacking, hunting, fishing, horseback riding, etc.), scientific research, and other non-invasive activities. During these activities, patrons are asked to abide by the "Leave No Trace" policy. This policy sets guidelines for using the wilderness responsibly, and leaving the area as it was before usage. These guidelines include: Packing all trash out of the wilderness, using a stove as opposed to a fire, camping at least 200 feet (61 m) from trails or water sources, staying on marked trails, and keeping group size small. When closely observed, the "Leave No Trace" ethos ensures that wilderness areas remain untainted by human interaction. In general, the law prohibits logging, mining, mechanized vehicles (including bicycles), road-building, and other forms of development in wilderness areas, though pre-existing mining claims and grazing ranges are permitted through grandfather clauses in the Wilderness Act. Wilderness areas fall into IUCN protected area management category Ia (strict nature preserves) or Ib (wilderness areas).
Wilderness areas are parts of national parks, wildlife refuges, national forests, and BLM lands; some units managed by different agencies. Initially, the NWPS included 34 areas protecting 9.1 million acres (37,000 km2) in the national forests. Today, there are 762 wilderness areas in the NWPS, preserving 108,916,684 acres (44,077,018 ha). This is approximately 5% of the entire United States, though only about 2.7% of the 48 contiguous states. However, most of that acreage is located in a handful of states. The states with the highest number of wildernesses are California, Arizona, Nevada, Alaska, and Oregon. However, when measured in acres the list changes dramatically, as Alaska contains many of the largest areas protected under the act. In terms of total acres, Alaska, California, Arizona, Idaho, and Washington are the top five states for wilderness, containing almost 80 percent of the acreage in the system. Wilderness totals in most eastern states are modest, with the exceptions of Florida and Minnesota. Wilderness areas exist in every state except Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, and Rhode Island.
Some state and tribal governments also designate wilderness areas under their own authority and local laws. These are not federal areas, and the exact nature of protection may differ from federal laws.
Most U.S. wilderness areas are in National Forests, but the largest amount of wilderness land is administered by the National Park Service. The largest contiguous wilderness complex in the United States is the Noatak and Gates of the Arctic Wildernesses in Alaska at 12,743,329 acres (5,157,042 ha). The largest wilderness area outside Alaska is the Death Valley Wilderness in southeastern California. The smallest area protected by the WPS is the Pelican Island Wilderness in northern Florida, which measures just 6 acres (2.4 ha) total. The smallest area preserved in the system was formerly the Rocks and Islands Wilderness in Northern California at 5 acres (2.0 ha), but after a reassessment by the Bureau of Land Management in 2006 it was officially expanded to 19 acres (7.7 ha).
A special exemption to the rule against mechanized equipment is made for wilderness areas in Alaska: limited use of motorized vehicles and construction of cabins and aquaculture are permitted.These exemptions were allowed due to the large amount of wilderness in Alaska and the concerns of subsistence users, including Alaska Natives.
On March 30, 2009, President Barack Obama signed into law the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009. The legislation designated an additional 2 million acres (810,000 ha) in nine states as wilderness, representing the largest expansion of wilderness lands in over 25 years.
On November 7, 2009, an agreement between the United States, Canada, and Mexico entitled the "Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation for Wilderness Conservation" was made. This agreement created a new entity, the North American Intergovernmental Committee on Cooperation for Wilderness and Protected Areas Conservation, that would streamline the process for open communication between international agencies for the purpose of wilderness preservation. This committee was formed to gain insight on the benefits of wilderness preservation, establish open channels of communication between international agencies, and examine the cultural differences and similarities behind preservation efforts in each country. Within the U.S. system, all of the agencies responsible for wilderness preservation will work in cooperation with their international counterparts to determine the future of both the U.S. system and North American preservation efforts as a whole.
One of the major goals of the Wilderness Preservation System is to provide undeveloped habitats for threatened or endangered species.Many of the species found in the United States are represented in wilderness areas. There are 261 basic ecosystems in the U.S., and 157 of them are represented in the system. With 60% of all ecosystems somewhat protected by the NWPS, much of the wildlife in the U.S. also has an area in which to exist without significant human interaction.
In late 2011, a full wilderness review was requested of the Arctic Refuge Coastal Plain in Alaska. One of the major qualifications for this area to be considered as a possible wilderness area was its diverse wildlife population, many of which are on the endangered species list.In this potential wilderness area alone, whales, seals, wolves, polar bears, grizzly bears, muskoxen, caribou, and over 200 species of migratory birds call this one area home for at least part of the year. This vast assortment of flora and fauna is a major consideration for addition into the wilderness preservation system.
Thousands of laws and policies have helped shape and manage the National Wilderness Preservation System in the United States. The following Acts of Congress either directly affect the wilderness system or help influence wilderness management.
Some U.S. states have created wilderness preservation programs modeled on the NWPS.
National Forest is a classification of protected and managed federal lands in the United States. National Forests are largely forest and woodland areas owned collectively by the American people through the federal government, and managed by the United States Forest Service, a division of the United States Department of Agriculture.
National Wildlife RefugeSystem is a designation for certain protected areas of the United States managed by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. The National Wildlife Refuge System is the system of public lands and waters set aside to conserve America's fish, wildlife, and plants. Since President Theodore Roosevelt designated Florida's Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge as the first wildlife refuge in 1903, the system has grown to over 562 national wildlife refuges and 38 wetland management districts encompassing more than 150,000,000 acres (607,028 km2).
In all modern states, a portion of land is held by central or local governments. This is called public land. The system of tenure of public land, and the terminology used, varies between countries. The following examples illustrate some of the range.
The protected areas of the United States are managed by an array of different federal, state, tribal and local level authorities and receive widely varying levels of protection. Some areas are managed as wilderness, while others are operated with acceptable commercial exploitation. As of 2015, the 25,800 protected areas covered 1,294,476 km2 (499,800 sq mi), or 14 percent of the land area of the United States. This is also one-tenth of the protected land area of the world. The U.S. also had a total of 787 National Marine Protected Areas, covering an additional 1,271,408 km2 (490,893 sq mi), or 12 percent of the total marine area of the United States.
The protected areas of Michigan come in an array of different types and levels of protection. Michigan has five units of the National Park Service system. There are 14 federal wilderness areas; the majority of these are also tribal-designated wildernesses. It has one of the largest state forest systems as well having four national forests. The state maintains a large state park system and there are also regional parks, and county, township and city parks. Still other parks on land and in the Great Lakes are maintained by other governmental bodies. Private protected areas also exist in the state, mainly lands owned by land conservancies.
Federal lands are lands in the United States owned by the federal government. Pursuant to the Property Clause of the United States Constitution, the Congress has the power to retain, buy, sell, and regulate federal lands, such as by limiting cattle grazing on them. These powers have been recognized in a long line of U.S. Supreme Court decisions.
National Conservation Lands, formally known as the National Landscape Conservation System, is a 35-million-acre (140,000 km2) collection of lands in 873 federally recognized areas considered to be the crown jewels of the American West. These lands represent 10% of the 258 million acres (1,040,000 km2) managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The BLM is the largest federal public land manager and is responsible for over 40% of all the federal public land in the nation. The other major federal public land managers include the US Forest Service (USFS), National Park Service (NPS), and the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).
A wilderness study area (WSA) contains undeveloped United States federal land retaining its primeval character and influence, without permanent improvements or human habitation, and managed to preserve its natural conditions. WSAs are not included in the National Wilderness Preservation System until the United States Congress passes wilderness legislation.
The National Wildlife Refuge System in the United States has a long and distinguished history.
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.
According to the California Protected Areas Database (CPAD), in the state of California, United States, there are over 14,000 inventoried protected areas administered by public agencies and non-profits. In addition, there are private conservation areas and other easements. They include almost one-third of California's scenic coastline, including coastal wetlands, estuaries, beaches, and dune systems. The California State Parks system alone has 270 units and covers 1.3 million acres (5,300 km2), with over 280 miles (450 km) of coastline, 625 miles (1,006 km) of lake and river frontage, nearly 18,000 campsites, and 3,000 miles (5,000 km) of hiking, biking, and equestrian trails.
Inventoried Roadless Areas are a group of United States Forest Service lands that have been identified by government reviews as lands without existing roads that could be suitable for roadless area conservation as wilderness or other non-standard protections. The Inventoried Roadless areas include approximately 60,000,000 acres (240,000 km2) of land in 40 states and Puerto Rico. Most of these lands are in the western portion of the lower 48 states and Alaska. Idaho alone contains over 9 million acres (36,000 km2) of inventoried roadless areas. The inventoried roadless areas range from large areas with wilderness characteristics to small tracts of land that are immediately adjacent to wilderness areas, parks and other protected lands.
The Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 is a land management law passed in the 111th United States Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama on March 30, 2009. The bill designates millions of acres in the US as protected and establishes a National Landscape Conservation System. It includes funding for programs, studies and other activities by the Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture, and in some cases bars further geothermal leasing, oil and gas leasing, and new mining patents on certain stretches of protected land.
The Southeast Alaska Conservation Council (SEACC) is a non-profit organization that focusses on protecting the lands and waters of Southeast Alaska. They promote conservation and advocate for sustainable natural resource management. SEACC is located in Alaska’s capital: Juneau. The environmental organization focuses specifically on concerns in the Southeast region of Alaska: including the Panhandle, the Tongass National Forest and the Inside Passage.
New Mexico Wilderness Act of 1980, Public Law 96-550, is a U.S. federal law that authorized the establishment of a number of designated Wilderness Areas on National Forest land in New Mexico. The law also added additional lands to four existing Wilderness Areas in New Mexico, and named several Forest areas for study as potential Wilderness Areas. The law also created two new National Park Service units, Chaco Culture National Historical Park and Salinas National Monument, from existing NPS lands. By means of this law approximately 400,000 acres of forest land were designated as Wilderness Areas, as described by the Wilderness Act of 1964, and approximately 75,000 additional acres were designated as Wilderness Study Areas for possible future inclusion in the Wilderness program.
Endangered American Wilderness Act is a Federal law, enacted in 1978, that established ten new designated Wilderness Areas in the National Forests of several Western states. Sponsored by Arizona Democrat Morris Udall, the law added approximately 400,000 thousand acres of wilderness in California, Utah, New Mexico, and Wyoming, to the National Wilderness Preservation System. Other sections of the law established three new Wilderness Areas in Oregon and added additional acreage to two existing areas, and ordered the creation of a committee to develop a management plan for 330,000 acres of public land along the Salmon River in Idaho known as the Gospel-Hump area.
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