What is a wilderness study area and why do these areas exist?
As required by the Federal Land Policy Management Act of 1976, local BLM field offices identified relatively undeveloped areas with special ecological, geological, educational, historical, scientific, or scenic values that may be suitable for wilderness designation.
Until Congress makes a determination on an area's suitability, the agency is tasked with management of that boundaried area to a standard that will not impair its eligibility for wilderness designation.
Wilderness study areas have separate policy with specific management requirements that are different from lands designated to the National Wilderness Preservation System. Most WSAs are typically 5,000 acres or larger, a general criteria for reflecting manageable size for wilderness. Some WSAs are smaller than 5,000 acres because when they were identified, they were adjacent to other areas officially managed to protect wilderness characteristics. Still others exist as remainders, undesignated pieces of WSAs that were designated as Wilderness. Only Congress can release an area from its WSA status.
|Field Office/BLM Land||Number of Wilderness Study Areas|
|Colorado River Valley Field Office||4|
|Grand Junction Field Office||6*|
|Gunnison Field Office||5*|
|Kremmling Field Office||3|
|Little Snake Field Office||7|
|Royal Gorge Field Office||6|
|San Luis Valley Field Office||3|
|Tres Rios Field Office||12*|
|Uncompahgre Field Office||5*|
|White River Field Office||6|
|Total||54; 3 shared|
*Numbers with asterisks imply that the field office is co-managing at least one of their wilderness study areas (WSAs) with another field office; both offices count the WSA in their total number. For the state as a whole, each WSA is only counted as one, regardless of how many field office boundaries are crossed.
Three wilderness study areas are co-managed between two field offices. Each has been listed under its primary field office: the field office which manages the majority of its land.
Wilderness Study Area
Primary Field Office
Secondary Field Office
Dolores River Canyon
Please click here to see the full listing of all Colorado Wilderness Study Areas and a map of their locations.
Visit the National BLM Wilderness Study Areas site.
BLM Colorado State Office | (303) 239-3600 | 2850 Youngfield St., Lakewood, CO 80215
National Landscape Conservation System Program Lead | (303) 239-3752