Today, about 235 million acres of land in the U.S. have been permanently protected as wilderness, parks, refuges or other protected areas. But that’s only a third of our public lands. And about 100 million acres of pristine wildlands are still at risk. If we don't protect these last remaining wild places now, they could be lost forever.
How can I help?
1. Educate yourself about the wilderness.
Become familiar with what “wilderness” is and where protected wilderness areas are.
Information about all of the 758 wildernesses that make up the National Wilderness Preservation System is available in a searchable format in the Wilderness Area Database, at www.wilderness.net. Use it to find wilderness areas by name, agency, state, size or year of enacting legislation.
Sign up for WildAlerts to stay up to date on opportunities to help save wilderness at: http://action.wilderness.org/.
2. Leave no trace of your presence in the wilderness.
Pick up your trash…and everybody else’s!
Use existing trails and don’t take shortcuts.
Even a relatively small amount of trampling caused by the footsteps of hikers and pack stock can cause substantial impact, killing plants, compacting soil, and increasing erosion.
Be aware of campfire policies and use common sense.
Campfires sterilize soil, making it critically important to confine fires to existing fire rings or, in some cases, to prohibit campfires. Wood collection for campfires also depletes woody debris that serves to nurture new vegetation growth in and around campsites.
Wilderness visitors can directly disturb wildlife, either intentionally, through hunting, trapping, fishing or fish stocking, for example, or unintentionally. Trash (including food) and habitat modification, such as firewood collection, can affect small mammals and bird populations by changing food sources and shelter options. Off-season use of wilderness can be particularly taxing for wildlife. Several studies, for example, have documented elk disturbance in winter by cross-country skiers—something seemingly benign!
3. Be aware of invasive species and do your part to contain/eliminate them.
Invasive species are invading and destroying native species in wilderness areas all across the country.
Learn what invasive species are in your area and what is being done about them.
Since invasive species and plants can easily get transported in mud and dirt, always remember to clean the dirt out of your hiking boots and off of your vehicle, boat and trailer before you leave an area.
Don't dump live bait into waterways.
Remove invasive plants from your land.
Care for aquarium fish and other pets properly so that they don't become invasive.
Volunteer for organized efforts to remove invasive species from natural areas.
4. Volunteer/Get Involved
Support non-profit organizations that work with wilderness issues.
Check with your local land management agency office to see what stewardship or volunteer projects you can become involved in. You can also get involved with any of the many organizations involved in wilderness preservation and stewardship. A good list of organizations can be found at http://www.wilderness.net/.
Be aware of development threats.
Each day, thousands of acres of our wild places are lost to development. Find out what areas are in danger in your own community and across the country and express your concern to local officials and developers.
Only Congress can designate wilderness. However, anyone can recommend wilderness to their elected representatives in Congress. Once recommended to Congress, both the House and the Senate must agree on which areas should be designated and their exact boundaries. After the House and Senate agree, the proposal is forwarded to the president to sign into law or veto. So let your political representatives know if you think something needs to be done!
5. Remember that wilderness is vulnerable to threats from inside and outside its boundaries.
The decisions and choices you make every day affect wilderness, whether you live nearby or not. Will you use more or less energy? Will you create more or less waste? Will you protect our air and water from pollution? Small actions by individuals can make a huge difference!