Wilderness in the Florida Keys NWR's

wilderness article

President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Wilderness Act in 1964, creating our nation’s most incredible wildland systems: the National Wilderness Preservation System.


Congress designated wilderness areas in the Lower Florida Keys Refuges on January 3, 1975 (Public Law 93-632) to be managed under the Wilderness Act of 1964 (78 Stat. 890.892: 16 U.S.C. 1132). The wilderness areas include 1,990 acres in Great White Heron NWR, 2,019 acres in Key West NWR (all the islands in the refuge), and 2,278 acres in National Key Deer Refuge.

Under the Wilderness Act, wilderness areas “…shall be administered for the use and enjoyment of the American people in such a manner as will leave them unimpaired for future use and enjoyment as wilderness, and so as to provide for the protection of these areas, the preservation of their wilderness character, and for the gathering and dissemination of information regarding their use and enjoyment as wilderness.”


Sixteen principles of wilderness stewardship are derived from the Wilderness Act of 1964. They are:

  • Manage wilderness as a distinct resource with inseparable parts;
  • Manage the use of other resources and activities within wilderness in a manner compatible with the wilderness resource;
  • Allow natural processes to operate freely within wilderness;
  • Attain the highest level of primeval wilderness character within legal constraints;
  • Preserve wilderness air and water quality;
  • Produce human values and benefits while preserving wilderness;
  • Preserve outstanding opportunities for solitude or a primitive and unconfined recreation experience in each wilderness;
  • Control and reduce the adverse physical and social impacts of human use in wilderness through education or minimum regulation;
  • Favor wilderness-dependent activities when managing wilderness use;
  • Exclude the sight, sound, and other tangible evidence of motorized or mechanical transport wherever possible within wilderness;
  • Remove existing structures and terminate uses and activities not essential to wilderness management or not provided for by law;
  • Accomplish necessary wilderness management work with the minimum tool;
  • Establish specific management direction with public involvement in a management plan for each wilderness;
  • Harmonize wilderness and adjacent land management activities;
  • Manage wilderness with interdisciplinary scientific skills; and
  • Manage special provisions provided for by wilderness legislation with minimum impact on the wilderness resource.