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A wilderness study area (WSA) contains undeveloped United Statesmarker federal land retaining its primeval character and influence, without permanent improvements or human habitation, and managed to preserve its natural conditions. WSAs are not included in the National Wilderness Preservation System until the United States Congress passes wilderness legislation.
Map of BLM Wilderness Study Areas.
On Bureau of Land Management lands, a WSA is a roadless area that has been inventoried (but not designated by Congress) and found to have wilderness characteristics as described in Section 603 of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 and Section 2(c) of the Wilderness Act of 1964. Wilderness Study Area characteristics:

  • Size - roadless areas of at least of public lands or of a manageable size;
  • Naturalness - generally appears to have been affected primarily by the forces of nature;
  • Opportunities - provides outstanding opportunities for solitude or primitive and unconfined types of recreation.


BLM manages wilderness study areas under the National Landscape Conservation System to protect their value as wilderness until Congress decides whether or not to designate them as wilderness. Wilderness bills often include so-called "release language" that eliminates WSAs not selected for wilderness designation.

Some WSAs are managed exactly the same as wilderness areas, and the rules for others permit activities that are generally excluded from wilderness. For example, some WSAs allow mountain bikes and off-road vehicles.

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