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The Wilderness Act of 1964

This page contains information about the Wilderness Act of 1964 and how it is used today to protect wild land in Oregon's high desert.

With the 1964 passage of the Wilderness Act, Congress created a  policy of "securing for present and future generations the benefits of an enduring resource of wilderness."

Why Wilderness?

The purpose of the Wilderness Act is stated in its very first line: "To establish a National Wilderness Preservation System for the permanent good of the whole people."  In creating a law to protect Wilderness Areas, Congress gave the American people a powerful tool to ensure that the most special places within our public lands system would remain in their undeveloped, natural condition for future generations to experience.

Old Growth Juniper
An old-growth juniper in the Oregon Badlands Wilderness.
Photo: Greg Burke
The Wilderness Act defines Wilderness as:

" 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 . . . 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."

      CLICK HERE to download the full text of the Wilderness Act.

      Obama signs Badlands Act
      Stating that the bill “protects treasured places from the Appalachians of Virginia… to the Badlands of Oregon,” President Barack Obama signs the bill in 2009 that created the Oregon Badlands and Spring Basin wilderness areas in eastern Oregon.

      ONDA works to ensure that qualified desert lands are protected as wilderness so that future generations of Americans can experience the same rugged landscape we have the opportunity to enjoy today.


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      Oregon Natural Desert Association
      50 SW Bond Street, Suite 4,
      Bend, OR 97702
      Tel: (541) 330-2638

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