Digest of Federal Resource Laws of Interest to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Wilderness Act

Wilderness Act of 1964 (16 U.S.C. 1131-1136, 78 Stat. 890) -- Public Law 88-577, approved September 3, 1964, directed the Secretary of the Interior, within 10 years, to review every roadless area of 5,000 or more acres and every roadless island (regardless of size) within National Wildlife Refuge and National Park Systems and to recommend to the President the suitability of each such area or island for inclusion in the National Wilderness Preservation System, with final decisions made by Congress. The Secretary of Agriculture was directed to study and recommend suitable areas in the National Forest System.

The Act provides criteria for determining suitability and establishes restrictions on activities that can be undertaken on a designated area. It authorizes the acceptance of gifts, bequests and contributions in furtherance of the purposes of the Act and requires an annual report at the opening of each session of Congress on the status of the wilderness system.

Under authority of this Act over 25 million acres of land and water in the National Wildlife Refuge System were reviewed. Some 7 million acres in 92 units were found suitable for designation. From these recommendations, as of December 1998, over 6,832,800 acres in 65 units have been established as part of the National Wilderness Preservation System by special Acts of Congress.

In addition, the Alaska Lands Act (P.L. 96-487) established 7 wilderness areas in Alaska, comprising 18,560,000 acres. This Act also provided for use of motorized vehicles and construction of cabins, fisheries and aquaculture facilities, and other structures in these wilderness areas, in recognition of the unique conditions in Alaska.

Specific wilderness areas, acreages, and establishing legislation are listed in the "Annual Report of Lands under Control of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service" available from the Division of Realty, United States Fish and Wildlife Service.

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