Wilderness Study Areas
The Bureau of Land Management manages more than 545 Wilderness Study Areas (WSAs) containing nearly 12.7 million acres located in the Western States and Alaska. The Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 directed the Bureau to inventory and study its roadless areas for wilderness characteristics. To be designated as a Wilderness Study Area, an area had to have the following characteristics:
- Size - roadless areas of at least 5,000 acres of public lands or of a manageable size;
- Naturalness - generally appears to have been affected primarily by the forces
- Opportunities - provides outstanding opportunities for solitude or primitive and
unconfined types of recreation.
In addition, Wilderness Study Areas often have special qualities such as ecological, geological, educational, historical, scientific and scenic values.
The congressionally directed inventory and study of BLM's roadless areas received extensive public input and participation. By November 1980, the BLM had completed field inventories and designated about 25 million acres of WSAs. Since 1980, Congress has reviewed some of these areas and has designated some as wilderness and released others for non-wilderness uses. Until Congress makes a final determination on a WSA, the BLM manages these areas to preserve their suitability for designation as wilderness.