Congress established the National Wilderness Preservation System to ensure that an increasing population, expanding settlement and
growing mechanization would not occupy and modify all areas of the United States.
The Wilderness Act of 1964 defines wilderness character and specifies the uses of Wilderness and the activities allowed or prohibited within its boundaries. In general, wilderness areas offer a contrast with lands where human activities dominate the landscape.
Only Congress, with presidential approval, may designate lands as Wilderness. Section 603 of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) makes the BLM a full partner in the National Wilderness Preservation System, along with the other Federal resource management agencies.
Omnibus Public Lands Management Act of 2009
The Omnibus Public Lands Management Act of 2009 (P.L. 111-11) designated 517,000 acres of public lands in Owyhee County in southwestern Idaho as Wilderness in Title I - Subtitle F of the Act. The Act also releases 199,000 acres of Wilderness Study Areas to multiple use, designates 318 miles of waterways under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, provides for protection of cultural resources particularly important to the Shoshone-Paiute Tribes, and maintains access for hunting and other recreational activities.
The BLM is currently preparing a management plan (WMP) for these wilderness areas and the Wild & Scenic River segments also designated in the Act. A separate travel management plan in being developed for routes in Owyhee County outside of designated Wilderness. A proposed land exchange involving BLM lands and ldaho State lands is also currently under consideration.