Wilderness Study Areas
What is Wilderness?
In 1964, Congress created the National Wilderness Preservation System to preserve some of America's wild lands in their natural condition. To qualify for Wilderness designation, an area must appear natural with human influence substantially unnoticeable, have outstanding opportunities for solitude or a primitive and unconfined recreation, and be at least 5,000 acres. The area may also contain ecological, geological, or other features of scientific, scenic, or historic value.
What is a Wilderness Study Area?
From 1977-1992, the BLM evaluated 860 roadless areas, called "Wilderness Study Areas," (WSA) encompassing more than 27 million acres in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. The BLM has recommended that Congress designate 330 WSAs (9.7 million acres) as Wilderness and release all or parts of the other WSAs for other uses. However, until Congress passes laws to that effect, the BLM must protect the wilderness characteristics of all the WSAs. By law, management of WSAs is less restrictive than management of Wilderness but activities that would impair land suitability for wilderness designation are prohibited. The Elko District Office manages 10 Wilderness Study Areas totalling more than 272,000 acres. They are places "untrammeled by man offering outstanding opportunities for solitude and recreation”.
Map of Elko District Office Wilderness Study Areas
Do’s and Don’ts in Wilderness Study Areas
Recreation activities such as hiking, hunting, cross-country skiing, river rafting, fishing, primitive camping, and wildlife viewing are allowed.
All motorized or mechanical travel is limited to designated roads and trails. Cross-country travel is prohibited (i.e., OHVs, four-wheelers, snowmobiling, mountain bikes must stay on designated routes).
Artifacts, paleontological resources and historic sites on public lands, including WSAs, are protected by law. It is illegal to deface or remove any site or object with scientific, cultural or historic significance.
Activities conducted in WSAs before 1976 are called "Grandfathered Uses." These activities, which include grazing, mining and mineral leasing, may continue in the same manner and degree as they occurred in 1976.
Specific regulations apply to outfitters and guides operating in WSAs. Please contact the BLM Elko District Office for more information.