A wilderness study area (WSA) contains undeveloped United States federal land retaining its primeval character and influence, without permanent improvements or human habitation, and managed to preserve its natural conditions. WSAs are not included in the National Wilderness Preservation System until the United States Congress passes wilderness legislation.
On Bureau of Land Management lands, a WSA is a roadless area that has been inventoried (but not designated by Congress) and found to have wilderness characteristics as described in Section 603 of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 and Section 2(c) of the Wilderness Act of 1964. Wilderness Study Area characteristics:
- Size – roadless areas of at least 5,000 acres (20 km2) of public lands or of a manageable size;
- Naturalness – generally appears to have been affected primarily by the forces of nature rather than human activity;
- Opportunities – provides outstanding opportunities for solitude or primitive and unconfined types of recreation.
BLM manages wilderness study areas under the National Landscape Conservation System to protect their value as wilderness until Congress decides whether to designate them as wilderness. Wilderness bills often include so-called "release language" that eliminates WSAs not selected for wilderness designation.
Some WSAs are managed in exactly the same manner as wilderness areas, and the rules for others permit activities that are generally excluded from wildernesses. For example, some WSAs allow mountain bikes and off-road vehicles.
There are 545 BLM wilderness study areas with a total area of 12,790,291 acres (51,760.47 km2).
- List of wilderness study areas
- National Wilderness Preservation System
- Natural landscape
- Protected areas of the United States
- United States National Forest
- BLM official website, Wilderness Areas. accessed 9-10-08
- "National Landscape Conservation System - Wilderness Study Areas" (PDF). Bureau of Land Management. December 2009. Retrieved October 13, 2012.
- Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976
- Wilderness Area information page, Bureau of Land Management website.
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