U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIORBUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT
|Lands with Wilderness Characteristics|
Non-WSA Lands with Wilderness Characteristics
In accordance with the FLPMA, through the land use planning process, the BLM is required to consider all available information in order to determine the mix of resource use and protection that best serves the multiple-use and sustained-yield mandate. Under the FLPMA, the BLM has numerous authorities requiring the agency to maintain inventories of all public lands and their resources, including wilderness characteristics, and to consider such information during the land use planning process. Consistent with Section 201 of the FLPMA, which requires the Secretary of the Interior to “prepare and maintain on a continuing basis an inventory of all public lands and their resource and other values,” and the BLM Land Use Planning Handbook, the LSFO has identified and begun an assessment of BLM-managed lands with wilderness characteristics outside of existing WSAs. BLM Manual 6310 - Conducting Wilderness Characteristics Inventory on BLM Lands, provides the guidance from which LSFO performs the wilderness characteristic inventory process.
The wilderness characteristics inventory and assessment process is designed to answer the following question:
The assessment reflects current conditions and is used to update wilderness inventories as well as identify other areas within LSFO that may potentially contain wilderness characteristics. The process entails the identification of Wilderness Inventory Units, an inventory of roads and wilderness character, and a determination of whether or not the area meets the overall criteria for wilderness character (naturalness, outstanding opportunities for solitude, and primitive and unconfined types of recreation). Units found to possess such character are being evaluated during the land use planning process in order to address future management. The following factors are documented:
Determine if the size criteria will be satisfied for areas by meeting one of the following situations and circumstances:
Lands and resources exhibit a high degree of naturalness when affected primarily by the forces of nature and where the imprint of human activity is substantially unnoticeable. An area’s naturalness may be influenced by the presence or absence of roads and trails, fences or other developments; the nature and extent of landscape modifications; the presence of native vegetation communities; and the connectivity of habitats. Wildlife populations and habitat are recognized as important aspects of naturalness and would be actively managed. Assessing an area for naturalness includes examining the area for attributes such as the presence or absence of roads and trails, fences, and other infrastructure; the nature and extent of landscape modifications; the presence of native vegetation communities; and the connectivity of habitats.
Outstanding Opportunities for Solitude and Primitive and Unconfined Types of Recreation:
Visitors may have outstanding opportunities for solitude, or primitive and unconfined types of recreation, when the sights, sounds, and evidence of other people are rare or infrequent, where visitors can be isolated, alone or secluded from others, where the use of an area is through non-motorized, non-mechanical means, and where no or minimal recreation facilities are encountered.
These include ecological, geological, or other features of scientific, educational, scenic, or historical value.
Activities that could affect lands with wilderness characteristics are those that would impair naturalness and outstanding opportunities for solitude and primitive and unconfined types of recreation. Examples include construction of new roads or structures and an increase in recreational use that affects solitude and primitive recreation opportunities. Actions that would have an effect on wildlife habitat and native vegetation communities would also adversely affect lands with wilderness characteristics.
Methods of Analysis
The LSFO completed an initial review of its lands within the field office to determine which, if any, areas possess wilderness characteristics. This review included only BLM lands and did not include existing WSAs. Lands exclusively within existing WSAs were not analyzed; however, lands with potential wilderness characteristics outside or adjacent to WSAs were assessed. Existing designated WSAs would continue to be managed to protect those wilderness characteristics under the BLM’s interim management policy until Congress designates them as wilderness or releases them for other uses.
Areas evaluated for wilderness character consisted of roadless areas greater than 5,000 acres or roadless areas less than 5,000 acres adjacent to a WSA. These areas will be evaluated for the presence of naturalness and outstanding opportunities for solitude and primitive and unconfined types of recreation.
In the winter of 2012, the LSFO began the process of identifying and inventorying potential lands with wilderness characteristics within its administrative boundaries. The first step in this process was to conduct a GIS analysis to identify 5,000 acre roadless parcels. The seven WSAs in the Planning Area were removed from this analysis as they are managed under the National Landscape Conservation System (NLCS). The identification of the 5,000 acre parcels was accomplished by running a query using all highways, county roads and maintained BLM roads within LSFO as polygon boundaries. All the polygons created by road boundaries were then queried to identify those that were a minimum of 5,000 acres or greater. Those polygons greater than 5,000 acres in size were identified for refined analysis.
This process resulted in the identification of 98 individual polygons, totaling 802,107 acres. Of those polygons, 37 (150,077 acres) are adjacent to existing WSAs. The remaining 61 polygons, totaling 652,030 acres, are those potentially containing lands with wilderness characteristics and will be further examined by a refined analysis process.
The refined analysis was accomplished by visually comparing the remaining individual polygons with aerial imagery, as well as oil and gas, pipeline, powerline, transportation and road layers to determine if they met other minimum standards for lands with wilderness characteristics. They were also examined as to whether or not they could be modified (reduced in size) and still meet the minimum standard. This process was conducted by LSFO staff with extensive on-the-ground local knowledge of the resource area to aid in verifying the suitability of individual polygons to be considered as lands with wilderness characteristics.
The refined analysis resulted in reducing the area to 91 individual polygons, totaling 732,037.41 acres. Of those polygons, 36 (149,445.84 acres) are adjacent to existing WSAs. The remaining 55 polygons, totaling 582,591.57 acres, potentially contain land with wilderness characteristics and will be reviewed by an intensive, on-the-ground field inventory.
All polygon boundaries depicted below are subject to change pending our on-the-ground inventory.
Maintaining the Inventory
Section 201 of FLPMA requires the BLM to maintain on a continuing basis an inventory of all public lands and their resources and other values, which includes wilderness characteristics. It also provides that the preparation and maintenance of the inventory shall not, of itself, change or prevent change of the management or use of public lands. Regardless of past inventory, the BLM must maintain and update as necessary, its inventory of wilderness resources on public lands. In some circumstances conditions relating to wilderness characteristics may have changed over time, and an area that was once determined to lack wilderness characteristics may now possess them. The BLM will determine when it is necessary to update its wilderness characteristics inventory. Under the following circumstances, the BLM will consider whether to update a wilderness characteristics inventory or conduct a wilderness characteristics inventory for the first time:
1. The public or the BLM identifies wilderness characteristics as an issue during the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process .
2. The BLM is undertaking a land use planning process.
3. The BLM has new information concerning resource conditions, including wilderness characteristics information submitted by the public that meets the BLM’s minimum standard described in the Wilderness Characteristics Inventory Process section of this policy.
4. A project that may impact wilderness characteristics is undergoing NEPA analysis.
5. The BLM acquires additional lands.
There also may be other circumstances in which BLM will find it appropriate to update its wilderness characteristics inventory.
The LSFO will continue to maintain the inventory based upon the above criteria, although this process may be delayed due to manpower concerns, weather limitations, or priority driven projects.
Managed for Lands with Wilderness Characteristics