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Wilderness Study Areas

Handies Peak WSA (Photo by Bob Wick)              

Additional Information:

Wilderness Act of 1964

Wilderness Study Area Inventory 1980

Wilderness Study Area Inventory 1991

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 LandNumber of Wilderness Study Areas
Colorado River Valley Field Office4
Grand Junction Field Office6*
Gunnison Field Office5*
Kremmling Field Office3
Little Snake Field Office7
Royal Gorge Field Office6
San Luis Valley Field Office3
Tres Rios Field Office12*
Uncompahgre Field Office5*
White River Field Office6
Total54; 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

Tres Rios


Handies Peak


Tres Rios


Grand Junction


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