In Aldo Leopold’s words, wilderness is “the very stuff America is made of.” In occupying and settling the continent’s wild places, the encounter with wilderness shaped in us, as a nation, hardy pioneer characteristics we think of as fundamental to our American identity -- self-reliance, fortitude, hard work, a fierce independence, an innate love of the land.
By the early part of the 20th century, the momentum of pioneering had brought civilization across the continent, up every mountain valley and down every canyon. Would settling and modifying the land completely eliminate wilderness? In reaction to the considerable loss of the once dominant wilderness was born a uniquely American idea: to deliberately preserve some of the last remaining wild places as wilderness, so that present and future generations can continue to benefit from the wild nature that was so formative and fundamental to America's identity. We share an instinctive, insistent duty to pass some of that original legacy on, unmodified and untrammeled, so that those who follow may experience wilderness.
What are Wilderness Areas?
Wilderness areas are congressionally protected places where the earth and its community of life are essentially undisturbed; they retain a primeval character. They are places where man himself is a visitor and does not remain; without permanent improvements they generally appear to have been affected primarily by the forces of nature. They are places where visitors have outstanding opportunities to find solitude or participate in primitive and unconfined recreation. In 1964, Congress established the National Wilderness Preservation System and the first Wilderness areas with the passage of the Wilderness Act. Since that time, Congress has added significantly to the system including lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management, US Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, and the US Forest Service. There are nearly 110 million acres of wilderness now preserved in the United States. See: BLM Wilderness and Frequently Asked Questions About Wilderness
What are Wilderness Study Areas?
Wilderness Study Areas (WSAs) are roadless areas inventoried for and found to have wilderness characteristics as described in the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) and the Wilderness Act of 1964. FLPMA directed the BLM to study the agency’s roadless areas for all of their resource values and make recommendations to Congress as to which ones to designated as Wilderness. WSAs are managed to protect their wilderness characteristics until Congress decides which of them should be designated as Wilderness. For more on WSA's: BLM Wilderness Study Areas and Frequently Asked Questions About Wilderness Study Areas
Wilderness areas contribute significantly to our nation’s health and well-being. The benefits these areas provide are as diverse as the areas themselves.
• Water & Air – Wilderness areas are important sources of clean water and air. While the benefits of wilderness transcend its boundaries, they are threatened by human activities outside wilderness.
• Wildlife/Plant Communities – Wildlife and plant communities find high quality habitat with wilderness. Wilderness designations also provide for natural processes, including natural disturbances like fire, which are important to wildlife and plant communities. Wilderness is threatened by the introduction of non-native species, pollutants, and the suppression of natural processes.
• Legacy – The legacy of wilderness is passed on from generation to generation. Some take once-in-a-lifetime trips that deeply affect them, some are regular visitors who routinely refresh themselves in wilderness, some will never visit wilderness yet value knowing that these places are still present. Failure to preserve these areas limits future generation’s inheritance and quality of life.
• Recreation – Wilderness was created for the use and enjoyment of the American people. Yearly, over 12 million people visit Wilderness Areas to hike, ride horses, hunt, fish, ski, float, take pictures, stargaze, and other activities. Many people who visit wilderness are inspired and humbled by the feeling of being part of something larger than oneself. Wilderness is a haven for self discovery and rejuvenation. Wilderness Areas are closed to motorized vehicles and mechanical forms of transportation, including mountain bikes. Trespass by these types of transportation threatens the solitude and primitive recreational opportunities for which they are designated.
For information about all types of recreational opportunities on BLM lands in New Mexico, click here.