Orphaned Park Wilderness

The Unfinished Wilderness Agenda of the National Park System

Wilderness PhotoNational park wilderness contains some of the most magnificent wild land in our nation or, for that matter, the world. The 44 million acres of designated park wilderness comprise more than half of all the lands within our park system and more than 40% of all federal lands within the National Wilderness Preservation System.

Despite this superlative profile, the National Park Service (NPS) has turned its back on its wilderness. The agency has failed to forward wilderness recommendations to the President, conduct legally-mandated wilderness assessments, prepare wilderness management plans, or take a myriad of other steps necessary to protect wilderness resources.

In an effort to return NPS wilderness to the gold standard for wilderness in America, PEER is pursuing a three-pronged effort to:

Resuscitate Abandoned Wilderness Designations

The process of securing statutory protection for an enduring resource of park wilderness has stopped dead in its tracks. All told, long-pending or stalled wilderness proposals would increase park wilderness land by more than half, putting at least an additional 26 million acres under wilderness protection.

Absent wilderness designation, park backcountry is protected only be agencies policies which may be waived. Thus, fulfilling the NPS wilderness mandate will yield several important benefits, such as –

    • Precluding commercial intrusion into park wild lands by outlawing more transmission towers, pipelines, cell phone towers, and other structures from park wild-lands;
    • Strengthening park air quality protections by extending the scope of anti-degradation guarantees; and
    • Preventing mechanized recreation from penetrating park backcountry.

Look at the eleven Steps for Rescuing Orphaned Park Wilderness for the specific actions required to reverse all these abdications of wilderness stewardship.

See the wilderness status of 100 national parks with wilderness capacity with recommended next steps for NPS and Secretary of Interior. 

Protect Existing Wilderness

Guided by employees on the scene, PEER is stepping up its interventions to halt wilderness violations committed or condoned by NPS managers. Explore this site to see examples of that work across the park system.

Address the Big Picture

At present NPS devotes less staff time to managing the national wilderness program than any other federal land management agency, even though NPS administers more wilderness acres than any other agency. In the 1970s, NPS had an entire office devoted to wilderness. 

The Wilderness Act was enacted in 1964. After more than a half-century, the wilderness structure of the national park system remains significantly incomplete. The leadership at both NPS and its parent agency, the Interior Department, are sworn to faithfully execute the law but have breached this oath when it comes to the Wilderness Act. PEER will continue to work to implement the unfinished wilderness mandate in our national park system.

NEWS FROM PEER

PEERMail | Conservation Road Map Falls Short

Fighting climate change and the extinction crises requires bold federal action on issues such as wilderness ...

Let’s Resist the Temptation to “Improve” Wilderness

In designated wilderness areas, management means protecting the resource and natural processes, sometimes this ...

National Park Service Shirks Wilderness Legacy

50th Wilderness Act Anniversary Marked by Lip Service Not Leadership

Groups Push to Fix Flaws in National Park Wilderness Directive

Fixed Mountain Climbing Anchors, Widened Road Corridors among Problems Cited

No Sequester for Jet-Skiing in National Parks

Hefty Spending to Expand Activities Aggravated by Ranger Furloughs

Languishing Wilderness Legacy of National Parks

Vast Wild and Roadless Tracts Remain Unprotected in Wilderness Logjam

Park Backcountry Thrown Open to Mountain Biking

Bush Proposal Dusted Off and Adopted with Only Slight Modifications

Big Bend Breaks Ground on Single-Track Bike Racing Trail

Precedent-Setting Embrace of Converting Park Backcountry to Thrill Sport Venues

Federal Lawsuit to Keep Big Cypress Addition Lands Wild

Suit to Block Park Service Plan to Carve a 130-Mile Network of ORV Trails

The Big Cypress Wilderness Robbery

Park Service Scheme to Strip 40,000 Preserve Acres of Wilderness Eligibility Bared

National Park Plans Trail Designed for Mountain Bikes

Unprecedented “Pay-to-Play” Deal Gives Private Bike Group Backcountry Access

Park Service Plan Muddies Wilderness Protections

Confusing, Conflicting Guidance on Climbing Anchors and Other Topics

Wilderness Vanishing Act in Big Cypress

Converting 40,000 Wilderness-Suitable Acres to ORV Trails Violates Law and Policy

Commercial Aquaculture in Wilderness Pushed by Key Senator

Point Reyes National Seashore Oyster Farm Dispute Opens Legal Can of Worms

California Desert Wins New Protection via Feinstein Amendment

Lion’s Share of CDCA Included in Landscape Conservation System by Omnibus Bill

Mountain Bike Group Wants Access to Park Backcountry Trails

NPS Director Appears This Week at International Mountain Biking Convention

NEW PARK SERVICE POLICY PROMOTES ALASKA INHOLDINGS

Interim Guidance Abandons Acquisition as Tool to Protect Wilderness and Wildlife

PARK SERVICE STUNTS WILDERNESS GROWTH

Stalled Park Wilderness Plans Could Increase Wild Lands by More than Half

OLYMPIC PARK PLANS TO SET FIRES IN THE WILDERNESS

Burns for Cultural, Non-Safety Reasons Are Illegal and Ill-Advised, Groups Charge

OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK PLAN SHORTCHANGES WILDERNESS

Development Promoted While Rivers and Wild Lands Shortchanged

PARK OFFICIAL SHOULD BE DISCIPLINED FOR WILDERNESS VIOLATION

Olympic Superintendent Wasted $250,000 Despite Warning Plan Was Illegal

U.S. DISTRICT COURT UPHOLDS WILDERNESS ACT

Olympic National Park's Shelters Are In Violation Of Act

MOUNTAIN BIKE DEAL MAY OPEN UP PARK WILDERNESS

5.5 Million Acres of Wild Lands Vulnerable to New Mountain Bike Trails

Petrified Forest National Park Due for Wilderness Review

Will New Park Lands Be Protected for Their Wild Values?

OLYMPIC PARK VIOLATING WILDERNESS ACT

Lawsuit to Block Pre-Fabs Being Helicoptered Into Wilderness

COURT RULES PARK SERVICE VIOLATES WILDERNESS ACT

End of Motorized Vehicle Tours in Georgia's Cumberland Island Wilderness

OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK TO AIRLIFT PREFABS TO WILDERNESS AREAS

Wilderness Act Violations Cited

TOP NATIONAL PARK WILDERNESS OFFICIAL RESIGNS IN FRUSTRATION

Park Service Ignoring Letter and Spirit of the Wilderness Act

PARK SERVICE OKAYS WILDERNESS VIOLATIONS BY ITS STAFF

Groups Petition to End

PARK WILDERNESS PLANS BLOCKED

Bush Administration Maintains Moratorium on New Wilderness Designations

CONSERVATIONISTS FILE LAWSUIT TO PROTECT CUMBERLAND ISLAND WILDERNESS IN GEORGIA

Motorized Vehicle Tours Violate Wilderness Designation