Since 1964 and passage of the Wilderness Act, wilderness advocates have been successful in expanding the size of the National Wilderness Preservation System (NWPS) from the nine million acres originally designated by the Wilderness Act to nearly 111 million acres now. However, during that same time period research has documented that the quality and integrity of our Wilderness System is declining. Wilderness advocates have begun realizing that designating wilderness is only the first step toward achieving protection; the second critical step is to prevent diminishment and loss of Wilderness values by staunchly applying good Wilderness stewardship.
Four federal agencies have stewardship duties under the Wilderness Act: the National Park Service (~44 million acres), the Forest Service (~36 million acres), the Fish and Wildlife Service (~21 million acres), and the Bureau of Land Management (~10 million acres). Agency personnel are charged by the Wilderness Act to protect the wilderness character of the acres under their jurisdiction. Good Wilderness stewardship requires respecting the value of self-willed land, where natural processes prevail and humans do not dominate and control.
For a list of Wildernesses included in the National Wilderness Preservation System and information on individual Wildernesses, go to: www.wilderness.net
.Photos: Paria Canyon-Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness by Mike Salamacha, Paria Ranger; Lake Clark Wilderness; Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness by Kevin Proeshcoldt; Okeefenokee Wilderness by Jerome Walker; Pemigewasset Wildernes by ScenicNH Photography | Erin Paul Donovan; Cabinet Mountains Wilderness by Steve Boutcher.