Eastern Wilderness Areas Act

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Eastern Wilderness Areas Act
Great Seal of the United States
Other short titlesEastern Wilderness Act
Long titleAn Act to further the purposes of the Wilderness Act by designating certain acquired lands for inclusion in the National Wilderness Preservation System, to provide for study of certain additional lands for such inclusion, and for other purposes.
Enacted bythe 93rd United States Congress
EffectiveJanuary 3, 1975
Public law93-622
Statutes at Large88 Stat. 3433
Legislative history
  • Introduced in the Senate by George Aiken (RVT) on May 2, 1974
  • Passed the Senate on May 31, 1974 (passed)
  • Passed the House on December 18, 1974 (passed) with amendment
  • Senate agreed to House amendment on December 19, 1974 (agreed)
  • Signed into law by President Gerald Ford on January 3, 1975

The Eastern Wilderness Areas Act (Pub.L. 93–622, 88 Stat. 2096) was signed into law by President Gerald Ford on January 3, 1975. 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.[1] Although it was originally untitled, the bill signed by Ford has come to be known as the Eastern Wilderness Areas Act.[2]

The Act built upon the Wilderness Act, which was written by Howard Zahniser of The Wilderness Society and signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964. While the Wilderness Act created the legal definition of wilderness in the United States, the Eastern Wilderness Areas Act applied only to land east of the 100th meridian west.[3]


In 1964, both the Forest Service and Congress agreed that eastern areas would have qualified as wilderness. However, six years later, the Forest Service opposed congressional designation of new wilderness areas in West Virginia with land use histories of logging. In 1971, it adopted a "purity" interpretation for wilderness designation so that no eastern or western lands with a history of human disturbance could qualify as wilderness.[4]

The Forest Service drafted its own bill as an alternative "to establish a system of wild areas within the land of the national forest system" that would have allowed cutting trees to "improve" wildlife habitat and recreation.[5] The organization described the bill as necessary because eastern areas "do not meet the strict criteria of the Wilderness Act." Members of Congress who championed the Wilderness Act resolved to overturn the misconception that wilderness areas included only those "pristine" in nature. Senator Henry Jackson warned of this "serious and fundamental misinterpretation of the Wilderness Act" and pledged himself to correct the falsity of the so-called purity theory. Senator Frank Church, who had been leader of the Senate debate on the Wilderness Act, observed that "the effect of such an interpretation would be to automatically disqualify almost everything, for few if any lands on this continent—or any other—have escaped man’s imprint to some degree."

To counteract the Forest Service bill, advocates for wilderness, including The Wilderness Society, the Sierra Club, and Friends of the Earth, and their congressional allies, responded with the proposed Eastern Wilderness Areas Act. Promoted largely by Ernie Dickerman, a Wilderness Society staff member, and George Aiken, a senator from Vermont, the Senate endorsed the bill in May 1974.[6]

The final legislation adopted some elements of the Forest Service-inspired bill, but it did not alter the definition and intent of the Wilderness Act of 1964. The previous debate regarding the meaning of "wilderness" versus "pristine" land led to the understanding that cultural use of lands should not keep the area from being restored to a "secondary wilderness," with functioning natural processes similar to when the land was in a primary state. Therefore, the Eastern Wilderness Areas Act explicitly protects lands that both suffered previous abuse and have the ability to recover and therefore be designated for wilderness protection.[7]

Wilderness areas created[edit]

Designated Wilderness Areas[8]
Num. Wilderness from National Forest Approximate Area State(s)
acres ha
1 Sipsey Wilderness Bankhead National Forest 12,000 4,900 Alabama
2 Caney Creek Wilderness Ouachita National Forest 14,433 5,841 Arkansas
3 Upper Buffalo Wilderness Ozark National Forest 10,590 4,290 Arkansas
4 Bradwell Bay Wilderness Apalachicola National Forest 22,000 8,900 Florida
5 Beaver Creek Wilderness Daniel Boone National Forest 5,500 2,200 Kentucky
6 Presidential Range-Dry River Wilderness White Mountain National Forest 20,380 8,250 New Hampshire
7 Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness Nantahala and Cherokee National Forests 15,000 6,100 North Carolina and Tennessee
8 Ellicott Rock Wilderness Sumter, Nantahala, and Chattahoochee National Forests 3,600 1,500 South Carolina, North Carolina, and Georgia
9 Gee Creek Wilderness Cherokee National Forest 2,570 1,040 Tennessee
10 Bristol Cliffs Wilderness Green Mountain National Forest 6,500 2,600 Vermont
11 Lye Brook Wilderness Green Mountain National Forest 14,300 5,800 Vermont
12 James River Face Wilderness Jefferson National Forest 8,800 3,600 Virginia
13 Dolly Sods Wilderness Monongahela National Forest 10,215 4,134 West Virginia
14 Otter Creek Wilderness Monongahela National Forest 20,000 8,100 West Virginia
15 Rainbow Lake Wilderness Chequamegon National Forest 6,600 2,700 Wisconsin

See also[edit]


  • Johnson, Christopher (2006). This Grand & Magnificent Place: The Wilderness Heritage of the White Mountains. Durham, NH: University of New Hampshire Press.
  • Rennicke, Jeff (February 1992). "Micro-Wild". Backpacker. 20 (112).
  • Scott, Doug (2004). The Enduring Wilderness. Golden, CO: Fulcrum Publishing.


  1. ^ Rennicke (1992), p. 55.
  2. ^ Johnson (2006), p. 252.
  3. ^ "The Wilderness Act of 1964". Western North Carolina's Mountain Treasures. Archived from the original on 2019-01-03. Retrieved 16 June 2010.
  4. ^ Scott, Douglas W. (2006). Harmon, David (ed.). Our Nationwide National Wilderness Preservation System (PDF). People, Places, and Parks: Proceedings of the 2005 George Wright Society Conference on Parks, Protected Areas, and Cultural Sites. Hancock, Michigan: The George Wright Society.
  5. ^ Scott (2004), p. 68.
  6. ^ Northup, Jim (April 2001). "George D. Aiken: Father of Eastern Wilderness". Forest Watch. Archived from the original on 2012-03-08.
  7. ^ Scott (2004), p. 69.
  8. ^ "S. 3433 — 93rd Congress: Eastern Wilderness Areas Act". GovTrack. 1974. Retrieved 27 December 2019.

External links[edit]