The National Wilderness Preservation System

"In order to assure that an increasing population, accompanied by expanding settlement and growing mechanization, does not occupy and modify all areas within the United States...leaving no lands designated for preservation and protection in their natural is hereby declared the policy of the Congress to secure for the American people of present and future generations the benefits of an enduring resource of wilderness."
-The Wilderness Act, Sept. 3, 1964

When President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Wilderness Act in 1964, it chartered a National Wilderness Preservation System to be made up of federal lands statutorily protected in order to preserve "an enduring resource of wilderness." The Act itself also designated the first 9.1 million acres as wilderness and set in motion procedures for protecting many millions of additional acres of America's wilderness. Today, the National Wilderness Preservation System contains nearly 109 million acres. That's less than 5 percent of the U.S. land base.

There remain perhaps another 200 million acres of not-yet-protected federal lands that merit the strong statutory protection of the Wilderness Act. These include roadless lands in national parks and monuments, national wildlife refuges, national forests, and public domain lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management.

The only way to permanently protect these still-vulnerable national wilderness treasures is for Congress to grant them permanent protection in the National Wilderness Preservation System. And that will occur only if those who know and love individual wild areas work with local organizations and coalitions to develop proposals and promote support from their own congressional delegations.

To learn more about the National Wilderness Preservation System and any of the more than 677 wilderness areas it protects, see our map of designated wilderness.

For a map linked to each wilderness area, visit