Back to Publications

Along the Trammeled Road to Wilderness Policy on Federal Lands

William G. Myers III, Jennifer D. Hill, Proceedings of 56th Annual Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Institute (2010)

§ 15.01 Why Wilderness Issues Matter
The benefits of wilderness have been recognized for over 100 years and extolled by American writers, thinkers, and conservationists. In the words of the Wilderness Act of 1964 (Wilderness Act or Act), wilderness provides opportunities for solitude and primitive recreation. Romantic writers in the nineteenth century recognized the importance of wilderness as a setting for individual reflection and restoration. Adventurers and conservationists in the early twentieth century saw wilderness as a place to escape from the increasing intensity of modern life, as well as to challenge oneself against the natural world. Even for those who never visit, wilderness may provide a psychological benefit simply through the knowledge that pristine wild places continue to exist. Wilderness is also valuable for non-anthropocentric purposes such as preserving biodiversity and protecting ecosystems.
[15-3] Wilderness is generally acknowledged as the most restrictive management designation for federal lands. Wilderness designation imposes constraints on planning, permitting, resource management, and construction or maintenance of facilities for land management agencies, as well as constraining the activities of other public land users and permittees. In recent years, litigation has challenged agency authority to designate and manage wilderness-quality lan