The Winter Range Wilderness Study Area (WSA) (OR-2-73H) is located about 70 miles southeast of Burns, Oregon (20 miles southwest of Burns Junction and U.S. Highway 95) in Harney and Malheur Counties. The WSA is about 6 miles east of the county road which runs along the east side of Steens Mountain from State Highway 78 at Folly Farm to Fields.
The study area contains 14,800 acres of BLM land. Within the WSA is one 640-acre parcel of split-estate land. The study area is 9 miles long and averages about 3 miles in width. The boundary of the study area is formed almost entirely by low standard, BLM dirt roads, although two small parcels of private land border the area on the western side.
The WSA contains several distinct topographic features. A steep escarpment averaging about 500 feet high runs along the entire west-central side of the study area. To the west and below this ridge lies a basin area. Portions of both the Alvord Desert Basin and the Mickey Basin are included in this part of the study area. Along the western boundary, within the Mickey Basin portion of the area, the WSA reaches its lowest elevation at 3,924 feet.
Near the center of the WSA, the plateau area east of the escarpment rises to a height of 5,122 feet, the highest point in the study area. From the top of the escarpment, the landscape on the plateau slopes gradually downward to the southeast, and consists of gently-rolling terrain. The eastern portion of the study area contains a small, usually dry, which lies near the boundary.
The WSA was initially studied under Section 603 of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA), but since the wilderness inventory phase additional lands were added and modified, and as a result, these areas were studied under Section 202 also of FLPMA. These lands were included in the final Oregon Wilderness Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) filed in February 1990.