Wilderness study area

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Map of BLM Wilderness Study Areas.
Slinkard BLM Wilderness Study Area, California
Sutton Mountain BLM Wilderness Study Area, Oregon

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. In spite of this, WSAs are not included in the National Wilderness Preservation System.

On Bureau of Land Management lands, a WSA is a roadless area that has been inventoried (but not designated by Congress) and found to have wilderness characteristics as described in Section 603 of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 and Section 2(c) of the Wilderness Act of 1964. Wilderness Study Area characteristics:

  • Size – roadless areas of at least 5,000 acres (2,000 ha) of public lands or of a manageable size;
  • Naturalness – generally appears to have been affected primarily by the forces of nature rather than human activity;
  • Opportunities – provides outstanding opportunities for solitude or primitive and unconfined types of recreation.[1]

BLM manages wilderness study areas under the National Conservation Lands to protect their value as wilderness until Congress decides whether to designate them as wilderness. Wilderness bills often include so-called "release language" that eliminates WSAs not selected for wilderness designation.

Some WSAs are managed in exactly the same manner as wilderness areas, a specific government designation and not synonymous with the natural state of wilderness. Some areas permit activities that are generally excluded from wildernesses, such as mountain biking and off-roading.

As of 2023, there are 487 BLM wilderness study areas with a total area of 11,118,496 acres (4,499,496 ha).[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Wilderness and Wilderness Study Areas". Bureau of Land Management. Retrieved 11 December 2023.
  2. ^ "Wilderness Areas and Wilderness Study Areas Summary Table". Bureau of Land Management. December 2023. Retrieved 10 December 2023.

External links[edit]