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Wilderness Act Of 1964
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Public Law 88-577 (16 U.S. C. 1131-1136)

88th Congress, Second Session

September 3, 1964

 

A N   A C T

 

To establish a National Wilderness Preservation System for the permanent good of the whole

people, and for other purposes.

 

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in

Congress assembled.

 

SHORT TITLE

 

SECTION 1.  This Act may be cited as the "Wilderness Act."

 

WILDERNESS SYSTEM ESTABLISHEDÄSTATEMENT OF POLICY

 

SECTION 2.     (a) In order to assure that an increasing population, accompanied by

expanding settlement and growing mechanization, does not occupy and modify all areas

within the United States and its possessions, leaving no lands designated for preservation and

protection in their natural condition, it is hereby declared to be the policy of the Congress to

secure for the American people of present and future generations the benefits of an enduring

resource of wilderness.  For this purpose there is hereby established a National Wilderness

Preservation System to be composed of federally owned areas designated by the Congress as

"wilderness areas," and these shall be administered for the use and enjoyment of the

American people in such 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; and no Federal lands shall be designated as "wilderness

areas" except as provided for in this Act or by a subsequent Act.

 

(b) The inclusion of an area in the National Wilderness Preservation System notwithstanding,

the area shall continue to be managed by the Department and agency having jurisdiction

thereover immediately before its inclusion in the National Wilderness Preservation System

unless otherwise provided by Act of Congress.  No appropriation shall be available for

payment of expenses or salaries for the administration of the National Wilderness

Preservation System as a separate unit nor shall any appropriations be available for additional

personnel stated as being required solely for the purpose of managing or administering areas

solely because they are included within the National Wilderness Preservation System.

 

DEFINITION OF WILDERNESS

 

(c) A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his 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.  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 and which

(1) generally appears to have been affected primarily by the forces of nature, with the imprint

of man's work substantially unnoticeable; (2) has outstanding opportunities for solitude or a

primitive and unconfined type of recreation; (3) has at least five thousand acres of land or is

of sufficient size as to make practicable its preservation and use in an unimpaired condition;

and (4) may also contain ecological, geological, or other features of scientific, educational,

scenic, or historical value.

 

NATIONAL WILDERNESS PRESERVATION SYSTEMÄEXTENT OF SYSTEM

 

SECTION 3.     (a) All areas within the national forests classified at least 30 days before the

effective date of this Act by the Secretary of Agriculture or the Chief of the Forest Service as

"wilderness," "wild," or "canoe" are hereby designated as wilderness areas.  The Secretary of

Agriculture shallÄ

 

        (1) Within one year after the effective date of this Act, file a map and legal

     description of each wilderness area with the Interior and Insular Affairs Committees of

     the United States Senate and the House of Representatives, and such descriptions shall

     have the same force and effect as if included in this Act: Provided, however, That

     correction of clerical and typographical errors in such legal descriptions and maps may

     be made.

        (2) Maintain, available to the public, records pertaining to said wilderness areas,

     including maps and legal descriptions, copies of regulations governing them, copies of

     public notices of, and reports submitted to Congress regarding pending additions,

     eliminations, or modifications.  Maps, legal descriptions, and regulations pertaining to

     wilderness areas within their respective jurisdictions also shall be available to the

     public in the offices of regional foresters, national forest supervisors, and forest

     rangers.

 

Classification.  (b) The Secretary of Agriculture shall, within ten years after the enactment of

this Act, review, as to its suitability or nonsuitability for preservation as wilderness, each

area in the national forests classified on the effective date of this Act by the Secretary of

Agriculture or the Chief of the Forest Service as "primitive" and report his findings to the

President.

 

Presidential recommendation to Congress.  The President shall advise the United States

Senate and House of Representatives of his recommendations with respect to the designation

as "wilderness" or other reclassification of each area on which review has been completed,

together with maps and a definition of boundaries.  Such advice shall be given with respect to

not less than one-third of all the areas now classified as "primitive" within three years after

the enactment of this Act, and the remaining areas within ten years after the enactment of this

Act.

 

Congressional approval.  Each recommendation of the President for designation as

"wilderness" shall become effective only if so provided by an Act of Congress.  Areas

classified as "primitive" on the effective date of this Act shall continue to be administered

under the rules and regulations affecting such areas on the effective date of this Act until

Congress has determined otherwise.  Any such area may be increased in size by the President

at the time he submits his recommendations to the Congress by not more than five thousand

acres with no more than one thousand two hundred acres in any one compact unit; if it is

proposed to increase the size of any such area by more than five thousand acres or by more

than one thousand two hundred and eighty acres in any one compact unit the increase in size

shall not become effective until acted upon by Congress.  Nothing herein contained shall limit

the President in proposing, as part of his recommendations to Congress, the alteration of

existing boundaries of primitive areas or recommending the addition of any contiguous area

of national forest lands predominantly of wilderness value.  Notwithstanding any other

provisions of this Act, the Secretary of Agriculture may complete his review and delete such

areas as may be necessary, but not to exceed seven thousand acres, from the southern tip of

the Gore Range-Eagles Nest Primitive Area, Colorado, if the Secretary determines that such

action is in the public interest.

 

Report to President.  (c) Within ten years after the effective date of this Act the Secretary of

the Interior shall review every roadless area of five thousand contiguous acres or more in the

national parks, monuments, and other units of the national park system and every such area

of, and every roadless island within, the national wildlife refuges and game ranges, under his

jurisdiction on the effective date of this Act and shall report to the President his

recommendation as to the suitability or nonsuitability of each such area or island for

preservation as wilderness.

 

Presidential recommendation to Congress.  The President shall advise the President of the

Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives of his recommendation with respect

to the designation as wilderness of each such area or island on which review has been

completed, together with a map thereof and a definition of its boundaries.  Such advice shall

be given with respect to not less than one-third of the areas and islands to be reviewed under

this subsection within three years after enactment of this Act, not less than two-thirds within

seven years of enactment of this Act, and the remainder within ten years of enactment of this

Act.

 

Congressional approval.  A recommendation of the President for designation as wilderness

shall become effective only if so provided by an Act of Congress.  Nothing contained herein

shall, by implication or otherwise, be construed to lessen the present statutory authority of the

Secretary of the Interior with respect to the maintenance of roadless areas within units of the

national park system.

 

Suitability.  (d)(1) The Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of the Interior shall, prior

to submitting any recommendations to the President with respect to the suitability of any area

for preservation as wildernessÄ

 

     Publication in Federal Register.  (A) give such public notice of the proposed action as

     they deem appropriate, including publication in the Federal Register and in a

     newspaper having general circulation in the area or areas in the vicinity of the affected

     land;

     Hearings.  (B) hold a public hearing or hearings at a location or locations convenient

     to the area affected.  The hearings shall be announced through such means as the

     respective Secretaries involved deem appropriate, including notices in the Federal

     Register and in newspapers of general circulation in the area: Provided. That if the

     lands involved are located in more than one State, at least one hearing shall be held in

     each State in which a portion of the land lies;

     (C) at least thirty days before the date of a hearing advise the Governor of each State

     and the governing board of each county, or in Alaska the borough, in which the lands

     are located, and Federal departments and agencies concerned, and invite such officials

     and Federal agencies to submit their views on the proposed action at the hearing or by

     not later than thirty days following the date of the hearing.

 

(2) Any views submitted to the appropriate Secretary under the provisions of (1) of this

subsection with respect to any area shall be included with any recommendations to the

President and to Congress with respect to such area.

 

Proposed modification.  (e) Any modification or adjustment of boundaries of any wilderness

area shall be recommended by the appropriate Secretary after public notice of such proposal

and public hearing or hearings as provided in subsection (d) of this section.  The proposed

modification or adjustment shall then be recommended with map and description thereof to

the President.  The President shall advise the United States Senate and the House of

Representatives of his recommendations with respect to such modification or adjustment and

such recommendations shall become effective only in the same manner as provided for in

subsections (b) and (c) of this section.

 

USE OF WILDERNESS AREAS

 

SECTION 4.     (a) The purposes of this Act are hereby declared to be within and supplemental

               to the purposes for which national forests and units of the national park and

               wildlife refuge systems are established and administered andÄ

 

     (1) Nothing in this Act shall be deemed to be in interference with the purpose for

     which national forests are established as set forth in the Act of June 4, 1897 (30 Stat.

     11), and the Multiple-Use Sustained-Yield Act of June 12, 1960 (74 Stat. 215).

     (2) Nothing in this Act shall modify the restrictions and provisions of the Shipstead-

     Nolan Act (Public Law 539, Seventy-first Congress, July 10, 1930; 46 Stat. 1020),

     the Thye-Blatnik Act (Public Law 733, Eightieth Congress, June 2, 1948; 62 Stat.

     568), and the Humphrey-Thye-Blatnik-Andresen Act (Public Law 607, Eighty-fourth

     Congress, June 22, 1956; 70 Stat. 326), as applying to the Superior National Forest

     or the regulations of the Secretary of Agriculture.

     (3) Nothing in this Act shall modify the statutory authority under which units of the

     national park system are created.  Further, the designation of any area of any park,

     monument, or other unit of the national park system as a wilderness area pursuant to

     this Act shall in no manner lower the standards evolved for the use and preservation

     of such park, monument, or other unit of the national park system in accordance with

     the Act of August 25, 1916, the statutory authority under which the area was created,

     or any other Act of Congress which might pertain to or affect such area, including,

     but not limited to, the Act of June 8, 1906 (34 Stat. 225; 16 U.S.C. 432 et seq.);

     section 3(2) of the Federal Power Act (16 U.S.C. 796 (2); and the Act of August 21,

     1935 (49 Stat. 666; 16 U.S.C. 461 et seq.).

 

(b) Except as otherwise provided in this Act, each agency administering any area designated

as wilderness shall be responsible for preserving the wilderness character of the area and shall

so administer such area for such other purposes for which it may have been established as

also to preserve its wilderness character.  Except as otherwise provided in this Act,

wilderness areas shall be devoted to the public purposes of recreational, scenic, scientific,

educational, conservation, and historical use.

 

PROHIBITION OF CERTAIN USES

 

(c) Except as specifically provided for in this Act, and subject to existing private rights, there

shall be no commercial enterprise and no permanent road within any wilderness area

designated by this Act and except as necessary to meet minimum requirements for the

administration of the area for the purpose of this Act (including measures required in

emergencies involving the health and safety of persons within the area), there shall be no

temporary road, no use of motor vehicles, motorized equipment or motorboats, no landing of

aircraft, no other form of mechanical transport, and no structure or installation within any

such area.

 

SPECIAL PROVISIONS

 

(d) The following special provisions are hereby made:

 

(1) Within wilderness areas designated by this Act the use of aircraft or motorboats, where

these uses have already become established, may be permitted to continue subject to such

restrictions as the Secretary of Agriculture deems desirable.  In addition, such measure may

be taken as may be necessary in the control of fire, insects, and diseases, subject to such

conditions as the Secretary deems desirable.

 

(2) Nothing in this Act shall prevent within national forest wilderness areas any activity,

including prospecting, for the purpose of gathering information about mineral or other

resources, if such activity is carried on in a manner compatible with the preservation of the

wilderness environment.  Furthermore, in accordance with such program as the Secretary of

the Interior shall develop and conduct in consultation with the Secretary of Agriculture, such

areas shall be surveyed on a planned, recurring basis consistent with the concept of

wilderness preservation by the Geological Survey and the Bureau of Mines to determine the

mineral values, if any, that may be present; and the results of such surveys shall be made

available to the public and submitted to the President and Congress.

 

Mineral leases, claims, etc.  (3) Notwithstanding any other provisions of this Act, until

midnight December 31, 1983, the United States mining laws and all laws pertaining to

mineral leasing shall, to the same extent as applicable prior to the effective date of this Act,

extend to those national forest lands designated by this Act as "wilderness areas"; subject,

however, to such reasonable regulations governing ingress and egress as may be prescribed

by the Secretary of Agriculture consistent with the use of the land for mineral location and

development and exploration, drilling, and production, and use of land for transmission lines,

waterlines, telephone lines, or facilities necessary in exploring, drilling, production, mining,

and processing operations, including where essential the use of mechanized ground or air

equipment and restoration as near as practicable of the surface of the land disturbed in

performing prospecting, location, and, in oil and gas leasing, discovery work, exploration,

drilling, and production, as soon as they have served their purpose.  Mining locations lying

within the boundaries of said wilderness areas shall be held and used solely for mining or

processing operations and uses reasonably incident thereto; and hereafter, subject to valid

existing rights, all patents issued under the mining laws of the United States affecting national

forest lands designated by this Act as wilderness areas shall convey title to the mineral

deposits within the claim, together with the right to cut and use so much of the mature timber

therefrom as may be needed in the extraction, removal, and beneficiation of the mineral

deposits, if the timber is not otherwise reasonably available, and if the timber is cut under

sound principles of forest management as defined by the national forest rules and regulations,

but each such patent shall reserve to the United States all title in or to the surface of the lands

and products thereof, and no use of the surface of the claim or the resources therefrom not

reasonably required for carrying on mining or prospecting shall be allowed except as

otherwise expressly provided in this Act: Provided, That, unless hereafter specifically

authorized, no patent within wilderness areas designated by this Act shall issue after

December 31, 1983, except for the valid claims existing on or before December 31, 1983.

Mining claims located after the effective date of this Act within the boundaries of wilderness

areas designated by this Act shall create no rights in excess of those rights which may be

patented under the provisions of this subsection.  Mineral leases, permits, and licenses

covering lands within national forest wilderness areas designated by this Act shall contain

such reasonable stipulations as may be prescribed by the Secretary of Agriculture for the

protection of the wilderness character of the land consistent with the use of the land for the

purposes for which they are leased, permitted, or licensed.  Subject to valid rights then

existing, effective January 1, 1984, the minerals in lands designated by this Act as wilderness

areas are withdrawn from all forms of appropriation under the mining laws and from

disposition under all laws pertaining to mineral leasing and all amendments thereto.

 

Water resources and grazing.  (4) Within wilderness areas in the national forests designated

by this Act, (1) the President may, within a specific area and in accordance with such

regulations as he may deem desirable, authorize prospecting for water resources, the

establishment and maintenance of reservoirs, water-conservation works, power projects,

transmission lines, and other facilities needed in the public interest, including the road

construction and maintenance essential to development and use thereof, upon his determina-

tion that such use or uses in the specific area will better serve the interests of the United

States and the people thereof than will its denial; and (2) the grazing of livestock, where

established prior to the effective date of this Act, shall be permitted to continue subject to

such reasonable regulations as are deemed necessary by the Secretary of Agriculture.

 

(5) Other provisions of this Act to the contrary notwithstanding, the management of the

Boundary Waters Canoe Area, formerly designated as the Superior, Little Indian Sioux, and

Caribou Roadless Areas, in the Superior National Forest, Minnesota, shall be in accordance

with regulations established by the Secretary of Agriculture in accordance with the general

purpose of maintaining, without unnecessary restrictions on other uses, including that of

timber, the primitive character of the area, particularly in the vicinity of lakes, streams, and

portages: Provided, That nothing in this Act shall preclude the continuance within the area of

any already established use of motorboats.

 

(6) Commercial services may be performed within the wilderness areas designated by this Act

to the extent necessary for activities which are proper for realizing the recreational or other

wilderness purposes of the areas.

 

(7) Nothing in this Act shall constitute an express or implied claim or denial on the part of

the Federal Government as to exemption from State water laws.

 

(8) Nothing in this Act shall be construed as affecting the jurisdiction or responsibilities of

the several States with respect to wildlife and fish in the national forests.

 

STATE AND PRIVATE LANDS WITHIN WILDERNESS AREAS

 

SECTION 5.     (a) In any case where State-owned or privately owned land is completely

surrounded by national forest lands within areas designated by this Act as wilderness, such

State or private owner shall be given such rights as may be necessary to assure adequate

access to such State-owned or privately owned land by such State or private owner and their

successors in interest, or the State-owned land or privately owned land shall be exchanged for

federally owned land in the same State of approximately equal value under authorities

available to the Secretary of Agriculture:

 

Transfers, restriction.  Provided, however, That the United States shall not transfer to a State

or private owner any mineral interests unless the State or private owner relinquishes or causes

to be relinquished to the United States the mineral interest in the surrounded land.

 

(b) In any case where valid mining claims or other valid occupancies are wholly within a

designated national forest wilderness area, the Secretary of Agriculture shall, by reasonable

regulations consistent with the preservation of the area as wilderness, permit ingress and

egress to such surrounded areas by means which have been or are being customarily enjoyed

with respect to other such areas similarly situated.

 

Acquisition.  (c) Subject to the appropriation of funds by Congress, the Secretary of

Agriculture is authorized to acquire privately owned land within the perimeter of any area

designated by this Act as wilderness if (1) the owner concurs in such acquisition or (2) the

acquisition is specifically authorized by Congress.

 

GIFTS, BEQUESTS, AND CONTRIBUTIONS

 

SECTION 6.     (a) The Secretary of Agriculture may accept gifts or bequests of land within

wilderness areas designated by this Act for preservation as wilderness.  The Secretary of

Agriculture may also accept gifts or bequests of land adjacent to wilderness areas designated

by this Act for preservation as wilderness if he has given sixty days advance notice thereof to

the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.  Land accepted

by the Secretary of Agriculture under this section shall become part of the wilderness area

involved.  Regulations with regard to any such land may be in accordance with such

agreements, consistent with the policy of this Act, as are made at the time of such gift, or

such conditions, consistent with such policy, as may be included in, and accepted with, such

bequest.

 

(b) The Secretary of Agriculture or the Secretary of the Interior is authorized to accept

private contributions and gifts to be used to further the purposes of this Act.

 

ANNUAL REPORTS

 

SECTION 7.  At the opening of each session of Congress, the Secretaries of Agriculture and

Interior shall jointly report to the President for transmission to Congress on the status of the

wilderness system including a list and descriptions of the areas in the system, regulations in

effect, and other pertinent information, together with any recommendations they may care to

make.

 

          Approved September 3, 1964.

 

          Legislative History:

 

 

          House Reports:

 

               No. 1538 accompanying H.R. 9070 (Committee on Interior & Insular

               Affairs) and No. 1829 (Committee of Conference).

 

          Senate Report:

 

               No. 109 (Committee on Interior & Insular Affairs).

 

          Congressional Record:

 

               Vol. 109 (1963):    April 4, 8, considered in Senate.

                              April 9, considered and passed Senate.

 

               Vol. 110 (1964):    July 28, considered in House.

                              July 30, considered and passed House, amended,

                              in lieu of H.R. 9070.

                              August 20, House and Senate agreed to confer-

                              ence report.

 

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