The Bureau of Land Management is responsible for 221 Wilderness Areas with 8.7 million acres in 10 Western States (3 percent of BLM's total acreage in the coterminous United States). Wilderness areas are special places where the earth and its community of life are essentially undisturbed. They retain a primeval character, without permanent improvements and generally appear to have been affected primarily by the forces of nature.
In 1964, Congress established the National Wilderness Preservation System and designated the first Wilderness Areas in passing the Wilderness Act. The uniquely American idea of wilderness has become an increasingly significant tool to ensure long-term protection of natural landscapes. Wilderness protects the habitat of numerous wildlife species and serves as a biodiversity bank for many species of plants and animals. Wilderness is also a source of clean water. It has long been used for science and education as well as for higher education purposes, providing sites for field trips, study areas for student research, and serving as a source of instructional examples. Recreation is another obvious appeal of wilderness, and wilderness areas are seeing steadily increasing use from people who wish to experience freedom from the Nation’s fast-paced industrialized society.