What is Congressionally designated wilderness and how does it relate to the National Wildlife Refuge System?

The Wilderness Act of 1964 established the National Wilderness Preservation System, which today includes 803 Congressionally designated wilderness areas comprising about 111 million acres in 44 states and Puerto Rico. “A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain,” the Wilderness Act states. “An area of wilderness is further defined to mean in this Act an area of undeveloped Federal land retaining its primeval character and influence, without permanent improvements or human habitation, which is protected and managed so as to preserve its natural conditions.” The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service manages almost 21 million acres of wilderness in the National Wildlife Refuge System. There are 75 wilderness areas on 63 Refuge System units in 25 states. The Fish and Wildlife Service is one of four federal agencies with wilderness stewardship responsibilities; the others are the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service and the National Park Service. Learn more about Wilderness.