Wilderness area

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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 World Conservation Union (IUCN) classifies wilderness at two levels, Ia (Strict Nature Reserves) 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 or pollution. Activities on the margins of specific wilderness areas, such as fire suppression and the interruption of animal migration, also affect the interior of wildernesses.

Wilderness areas by country


Tsarmitunturi Wilderness Area Tsarmitunturin eramaata 07.JPG
Tsarmitunturi Wilderness Area

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) has protected the "artistic reserve" in Fontainebleau State Forest. With a total of 1,097 hectares (2,710 acres), it is known to be the world's first nature reserve.

In the 1950s, [1] Integral Biological Reserves (Réserves Biologiques Intégrales, RBI) were dedicated to interference-free ecosystem evolution, the opposite of Managed Biological reserves (Réserves Biologiques Dirigées, RBD), where a specific management is applied to conserve vulnerable species or threatened habitats.

Integral Biological Reserves exist in French State Forests or City Forests and are therefore managed nowadays by the National Forests Office. In such reserves, all harvests and logging are forbidden, excepting exotic species elimination, or work to avoid fallen tree risk to visitors along already existing tracks in or on the edge of the reserve.

At the end of 2014, [2] there were 60 Integral Biological Reserves in French State Forests for a total area of 111,082 hectares (274,490 acres), and 10 in City Forests for a total of 2,835 hectares (7,010 acres).

New Zealand

There are seven wilderness areas in New Zealand as defined by the National Parks Act 1980, the Reserves Act 1977, the Te Urewera Act 2014, 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. [3]

United States

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.

Western Australia

In Western Australia, [4] 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.


The IUCN has published their view on wilderness protection, governance and management, Wilderness Protected Areas: Management Guidelines for IUCN Category 1b Protected Areas. [5]

See also

Related Research Articles

Protected areas of South Australia

Protected areas of South Australia consists of protected areas located within South Australia and its immediate onshore waters and which are managed by South Australian Government agencies. As of March 2018, South Australia contains 359 separate protected areas declared under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972, the Crown Land Management Act 2009 and the Wilderness Protection Act 1992 which have a total land area of 211,387.48 km2 (81,617.16 sq mi) or 21.5% of the state's area.

Protected areas of Tasmania consist of protected areas located within Tasmania and its immediate onshore waters, including Macquarie Island. It includes areas of crown land managed by Tasmanian Government agencies as well as private reserves. As of 2016, 52% of Tasmania's land area has some form of reservation classification, the majority is managed by the Tasmania Parks & Wildlife Service. Marine protected areas cover about 7.9% of state waters.

Protected area Areas protected for having ecological or cultural importance

Protected areas or conservation areas are locations which receive protection because of their recognized natural, ecological or cultural values. There are several kinds of protected areas, which vary by level of protection depending on the enabling laws of each country or the regulations of the international organizations involved. Generally speaking though, protected areas are understood to be those in which human presence or at least the exploitation of natural resources is limited.

Nature reserve Protected area for flora, fauna or features of geological interest

A nature reserve, is a protected area of importance for flora, fauna, or features of geological or other special interest, which is reserved and managed for purposes of conservation and to provide special opportunities for study or research. They may be designated by government institutions in some countries, or by private landowners, such as charities and research institutions. Nature reserves fall into different IUCN categories depending on the level of protection afforded by local laws. Normally it is more strictly protected than a nature park. Various jurisdictions may use other terminology, such as ecological protection area or private protected area in legislation and in official titles of the reserves.

Wilderness Undisturbed natural environment

Wilderness or wildlands, are natural environments on Earth that have not been significantly modified by human activity or any nonurbanized land not under extensive agricultural cultivation. 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.

National Wilderness Preservation System Protection of wilderness areas in the U.S.

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.

Vätsäri Wilderness Area Wilderness area in Inari, Finland

The Vätsäri Wilderness Area is located along the northeastern shore of Lake Inari in Inari, northern Finland, stretching all the way to the Finland–Norway border. The landscape is dominated by taiga forests of Scots pine, bog and bodies of water. The northeastern part rises as a treeless fell ridge. Vätsäri is one of twelve wilderness areas in Lapland and covers an area of 1,550 square kilometers (600 sq mi). The wilderness has one marked trail and a few cabins. The reserve is under the management of Metsähallitus and was established with the other wilderness reserves in 1991. It is part of Pasvik–Inari Trilateral Park along with Øvre Pasvik National Park and Øvre Pasvik Landscape Protection Area in Norway, and the joint Norwegian–Russian Pasvik Nature Reserve.

Protected areas of Madagascar

This list of national parks of Madagascar includes all officially recognized protected areas as of 2015. The protected areas network of Madagascar is managed by the Madagascar National Parks Association (PNM-ANGAP). The network includes three types of protected areas: Strict Nature Reserves, National Parks and Wildlife Reserves. At the 2003 IUCN World Parks Congress in Durban, the Malagasy President, Marc Ravalomanana, announced an initiative to more than triple the area under protection from approximately 4,200,791 acres (17,000.00 km2) to over 14,826,322 acres (60,000.00 km2). This "Durban Vision", as it has been dubbed, involved broadening the definition of protected areas in the country and legislation has been passed to allow the creation of four new categories of protected area: Natural Parks, Natural Monuments, Protected Landscapes, and Natural Resource Reserves. As well as allowing these new objectives for protected areas management, the new legislation also provided for entities other than PNM-ANGAP to manage protected areas, such as government ministries, community associations, NGOs and other civil society organizations, and the private sector.

Conservation in Belize

Since declaring independence in 1981, Belize has enacted many environmental protection laws aimed at the preservation of the country's natural and cultural heritage, as well as its wealth of natural resources. These acts have established a number of different types of protected areas, with each category having its own set of regulations dictating public access, resource extraction, land use and ownership.

Wildlife of Libya Natural fauna and flora of the country in north Africa

The wildlife of Libya is spread over the Mediterranean coastline and encompasses large areas of the Saharan desert. The protection of wildlife is provided through appropriate legislation in seven national parks, five reserves, 24 protected areas, two wetlands under Ramsar Convention, and also in other areas. Apart from these, there are also five UNESCO World Heritage Sites related to culture. The most important national parks are the El-Kouf National Park and Karabolli National Park. The well known nature reserves are the Benghazi Reserve and the Zellaf Reserve. The wildlife species recorded in the country are 87 mammals and 338 species of birds.

Rio Trombetas Biological Reserve

Rio Trombetas Biological Reserve is a federally-administered biological reserve in the municipality of Oriximiná, Pará, Brazil. It covers a large area of Amazon biome including rainforest, wetlands and water.

Pedra Talhada Biological Reserve

Pedra Talhada Biological Reserve is a federally administered biological reserve in eastern Brazil. It contains a remnant of the tropical Atlantic Forest biome.

Conservation in India

Conservation in India can be traced to the time of Ashoka, tracing to the Ashoka Pillar Edicts as one of the earliest conservation efforts in the world. Conservation generally refers to the act of carefully and efficiently using natural resources. Conservation efforts begun in India before 5 AD, as efforts are made to have a forest administration. The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change is the ministry responsible for implementation of environmental and forestry program in India, which include the management of national parks, conservation of flora and fauna of India, and pollution controls.

IUCN protected area categories Used to classify protected areas in a system developed by the IUCN

IUCN protected area categories, or IUCN protected area management categories, are categories used to classify protected areas in a system developed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Strict nature reserve

A strict nature reserve or wilderness area is the highest category of protected area recognised by the World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA), a body which is part of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). These category I areas are the most stringently protected natural landscapes.

Wee Jasper Nature Reserve Protected area in New South Wales, Australia

The Wee Jasper Nature Reserve is a protected nature reserve that is located in the Southern Tablelands region of New South Wales, in eastern Australia. The 630-hectare (1,600-acre) reserve is situated to the west of the Goodradigbee River arm of Burrinjuck Dam near the rural locality of Wee Jasper.

Witu Forest

The Witu Forest, is a protected area in Lamu District, Kenya, East Africa. It was formed in 1927 by combining the Utwani Forest Reserve with the adjacent Gongoni Forest Reserve, although the previous names remained in use. The independent Kenyan government confirmed the reservation, gazetting the forest in 1962, with 701 hectares more gazetted in 2002. The forest covers 4,639 hectares of gazetted land, with approximately 900 hectares of additional un gazetted, but enclosed, forest. The adjacent Mungajini Forest on the Nairobi Ranch contains approximately 1,100 hectares. As of 2007, there was no management plan for the forest, although it is to be managed under the Forests Act, 2005, by the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) which replaced the prior Forest Department in 2005.

Exceptional forest ecosystems of Quebec

The exceptional forest ecosystems of Quebec are stands of trees of outstanding interest for biodiversity that are intended to be preserved for future generations. They are protected by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Wildlife of Quebec.


  1. 1995 & 1998 National Forests Office internal instructions in application of the last paragraph of article L. 212-2 of the French Forest Act
  2. "L'ONF". Office national des forêts. 2018-10-30. Retrieved 2021-09-13.
  3. "Department of Conservation: New Zealand Wilderness areas" (PDF). www.doc.govt.nz.
  4. Department of Conservation and Land Management Policy Statement No 62, Identification and management of Wilderness and surrounding areas.
  5. Casson, Sarah A.; Martin, Vance; Watson, Alan (June 27, 2016). "Wilderness protected areas" via portals.iucn.org.