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Wilderness Designation

Idaho is known as the wilderness state. Many of our most stunning landscapes and richest habitats are designated wilderness. Through acts of Congress, a total of about 4.8 million acres of public lands in Idaho – approximately 14% of all its public lands – have been protected with the wilderness designation.

What is wilderness?

The Wilderness Act was enacted in 1964 to “assure that an increasing population, accompanied by expanding settlement and growing mechanization, does not occupy and modify all areas within the United States and its possessions, leaving no lands designated for preservation and protection in their natural condition”.

Wilderness designation is the gold standard for preservation of America’s public lands. These special areas are managed for their wilderness character: natural, untrammeled, undeveloped, solitude or primitive and unconfined recreation. Wilderness areas are open to hunting, fishing, hiking, berry picking, camping, horseback riding, and paddling. These areas are closed to motorized and mechanized vehicles and activities such as mining and timber harvest that would interfere with wilderness characters.

ICL’s history of wilderness advocacy is rich. ICL was instrumental in the establishment of the Frank Church-River of No Return, Owyhee Canyonlands, and Boulder-White Clouds wilderness areas.

Wild and Scenic Rivers

The 1968 Wild and Scenic Rivers Act was passed to preserve certain rivers that possess outstandingly remarkable scenic, recreational, or other similar values in a free-flowing condition and to protect such rivers for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations. Each river is carefully managed to protect and enhance the outstandingly remarkable values that caused it to be designated. These values can include scenery, recreation, fisheries, geology, among others.

The Middle Fork Clearwater, Selway, Lochsa and Middle Fork Salmon rivers were designated upon passage of the original bill. Idaho has 891 miles of Wild and Scenic Rivers, which is less than 1% of the state’s total rivers. Other iconic protected rivers include the Saint Joe, Salmon, Snake, Rapid, Jarbidge, Bruneau and Owyhee Rivers.

There are still hundreds of thousands of acres of BLM Wilderness Study Areas, Forest Service Recommended Wilderness, and thousands of miles of eligible Wild and Scenic Rivers in Idaho that are worthy of designation but are waiting to be reviewed by Congress. We work to protect these wild places and support permanent congressional designations.