How Many Folks Visit Designated Wilderness?

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By International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association

There are many groups working in the United States attempting to designate more Wilderness Areas or "Wilderness Study Areas."  If they are successful, we will have more land put aside in the United States that is seldom, if ever, visited by outdoor recreationists. The Wilderness Act became law in 1964 and defined Wilderness as "undeveloped federal land retaining its primeval character and influence. The natural forces prevail without man's interference in Wilderness. Man is a visitor who doesn't remain and his works are substantially unnoticeable." 

The main focus of Wilderness Management is perpetuation of its Wilderness Character.  Wilderness is a place where the natural forces prevail and fire is among those forces. The suppression of forest fires in the United States costs taxpayers $2.5 billion annually. Fires also pump as much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere in a few weeks as automobiles and trucks do in an entire year.

Here is some information regarding Designated Wilderness within the United States:

1. The United States National Forest and Grasslands encompass approximately 193 million acres. Within these units there are 439 designated Wilderness units comprising approximately 37 million acres or 19.2 percent of the U.S. Forest System. These 439 designated Wilderness units do not include millions of other acres designated as Wilderness Study Areas or administratively managed as defacto Wilderness Areas.

2. The Wilderness Act prohibits commercial enterprises, structures, roads or motorized equipment (i.e.: snowmobiles, ATVs, chainsaws, bicycles, strollers, handcarts, etc.). Wilderness visitation accounts for 3.3 percent of all total U.S. Forest Service Recreation visits. Recent Forest Service data indicates there were a total of 199.7 million recreation visits to the U.S. Forests nationwide. In contrast, designated Wilderness visits account for only 6.6 million visits.

3. When interacting on Wilderness designation issues, it is helpful to know that we presently have a lot of designated Wilderness in the U.S. and very few people visit designated Wilderness areas.

For information on visitation and use in our National Forests, you can visit the USFS web site:

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