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Wilderness Review and Rights of Access

Mary Jane C. Due, Rights of Access and Surface Use (1984)

Twenty years have passed since the Congress enacted the Wilderness Act.1 That Act provided legislative support for administrative action going back to 1930 that had set aside within the national forests 88 wilderness type areas ... i.e. wilderness, wild, primitive and canoe. In 1964 the total wilderness-type areas amounted to 14,598,681 acres. By the end of 1983, that figure had been increased to 79.84 million acres.

As of October 10, 1984, the 98th Congress has added more than 6.5 million acres of wilderness. Pending are bills to designate 3.5 million additional acres. These figures do not include the areas under ongoing wilderness study.

The purpose of the designated wilderness as outlined in the many bills offered in 1964 was “securing for the American people of present and future generations the benefits of an enduring resource of wilderness.”2


The purpose of this paper is to explore the rights of access to the designated wilderness lands and those designated for study, including areas within units of the national park system and the national wildlife system that might qualify for inclusion in the wilderness system after thorough review.

I. Wilderness Review

A. The Wilderness Act of 1964.

The intent of Congress in 1964, to allow ingress and egress to wilderness areas in national forest lands consistent