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Wilderness Review Information


Arctic Refuge recently completed a Wilderness Review (Appendix H of the CCP. It's a 2.4 mb pdf file) as part of the Refuge's draft revised Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP). The purpose of a wilderness review is to identify and recommend to Congress lands and waters of the National Wildlife Refuge System (Refuge System) that merit inclusion in the National Wilderness Preservation System (NWPS) (50 kb pdf file). By Refuge System policy, wilderness reviews are elements of comprehensive conservation plans, and a recent director's memorandum (100 kb pdf file) directs Refuges to conduct wilderness reviews during the planning process. Wilderness reviews require compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), interagency and tribal coordination, and public involvement.

The current review was initiated in accordance with the refuge planning process outlined in U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) Manual (602 FW 3 and 4) and is conducted in compliance with Service Manual (610 FW 3, 4, and 5), also known as the Wilderness Stewardship Policy. The review includes all areas of the Refuge not designated as wilderness (about 60 percent of Arctic Refuge is not designated as wilderness) and incorporates recent information on the Refuge's resources, uses, and management concerns.

In addition, a wilderness review is a means Arctic Refuge can use to assess whether we are effectively managing the Refuge according to its purposes.

The wilderness review process has three phases:

  1. Inventory: Identify lands and waters that meet the minimum criteria for wilderness (40 kb pdf file). These are called Wilderness Study Areas (WSAs).
  2. Study: Evaluate WSAs to determine if they are suitable for wilderness designation. In this phase, values, resources, public uses, and Refuge management activities are considered to compare the benefits and impacts of managing an entire WSA, a portion of a WSA, or none of a WSA as designated wilderness. The study also evaluates how designation would achieve refuge purposes and purposes of the NWPS.
  3. Recommendation: Findings of each WSA study are used to determine if the Service will make a wilderness recommendation. Any recommendation(s) would be forwarded by the Director of the Service to the Secretary of Interior. The Secretary may forward the recommendation(s) to the President, who may transmit them to Congress. Only Congress can designate wilderness.

The Wilderness Review is Appendix H of the full draft CCP (opens as 5.6 mb pdf file with additional pdf links). Also available is a brief summary of findings. Being an Environmental Impact Statement, the CCP presents a range of alternatives that includes each WSA. As is required by the Wilderness Stewardship Policy, alternatives range from no additional wilderness recommended to all WSAs recommended. By tying the Wilderness Review to the CCP, we also accomplish public involvement and an analysis of the potential effects of each alternative. The decision whether to recommend additional wilderness will be made in the CCP's record of decision.

Arctic Refuge Documents 

Resource and Process Documents 

  • Wilderness Stewardship Policy:
610 FW 1 Overview of Wilderness Stewardship Policy
610 FW 2 Wilderness Administration
610 FW 3 Wilderness Stewardship Planning
610 FW 4 Wilderness Review and Evaluation
610 FW 5 Special Provisions for Alaska Wilderness


Return to CCP web page. 

Page Photo Credits — All photos courtesy of USFWS unless otherwise noted.
Last Updated: Apr 03, 2014
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