North Sand Hills Instant Study Area (ISA)

Map of North Sand Hills


What is an Instant Study Area?

An Instant Study Area (ISA) is a specific category of Wilderness Study Areas (WSA)

How did the North Sand Hills become and Instant Study Area?

The North Sand Hills were designated a "Research Natural Area" in 1965.  When the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) was passed in 1976, it required BLM to designate areas that were formally identified as "natural" or "primitive" prior to Nov. 1, 1975 as "Instant Study Areas" (ISA).  In 1980, a BLM inventory concluded that the area did not meet wilderness criteria.  This did not release the area from ISA status.  BLM must manage WSAs to protect wilderness characteristics until Congress acts on BLM's recommendations to either release it or designate it as a wilderness area (BLM's "Interim Management Policy and Guildelines for Lands under Wilderness Review" (H-8550-1). 

How can Off-Highway Vehicle use be allowed in a category of Wilderness Study Area? 

BLM's "Interim Management Policy and Guidelines for Lands under Wilderness Review" (H-8550-1) states that areas open to off-highway vehicles in Wilderness Study Areas "may be designate only: (1) as sand dune or snow areas for use by the appropriate sand or snow vehicles, or (2) where an area was designated open prior to Oct. 21, 1976."  Thus, off-highway use on the dunes is not in conflict with the ISA interim management guidelines.  Current management limits motorized travel to existing open routes and to the open dunes.  Both of these restrictions are consistent with the imterim management guidelines for WSAs. 

Are the improvements within the ISA, such as the restroom, improved road, signage and fencing consistent with the interim guidance?

These improvements are consistent with the "Interim Management Policy and Guildelines for Land under Wilderness Review" (H-8550-1) because they provide for safety and sanitation.  Any additional development of the area would likely be limited or precluded by the ISA designation.

What can I do to ensure future recreational use of Off-Highway Vehicles within the North Sand Hills Special Recreation Management Area and Instant Study Area?

* GET INVOLVED in decisions affecting the North Sand Hills.  Click here to be added to a mailing list for the current Travel Management Plan Revision

* BE PROACTIVE by keeping motorized and mechanized recreation on open existing routes and the open sand dunes.  Do not cross or enter vegetated areas or areas fenced or signed as closed.

* 'STAY THE TRAIL' and 'TREAD LIGHTLY' at all times.

* DO NOT cut down any trees, even the dead ones, or ride over vegetation.  The vegetation keeps the sand dunes in place.  The wind brought the sand here and will take it away as the vegetation disappears.


* SPREAD THE WORD about the need for responsible and sustainable use.