IDAHO WILDERNESS AREAS:
Selway/Bitterroot (1,089,017 acres)
Craters of the Moon (43,243 acres)
Sawtooth Wilderness (217,088 acres)
Hells Canyon (83,811 acres)
Gospel Hump (205,764 acres)
Frank Church River of No Return (2,366,698 acres)
We will be updating this page soon to reflect Idaho's new 517,000 acre Owyhee-Bruneau Wilderness, in six units, which was designated in March 2009.
Idaho is the wildest state outside Alaska, with four million acres of
designated Wilderness and another 17 million acres still wild and awaiting
Congressional Wilderness protection. Half lies in central Idaho's Salmon
River watershed. In Salmon River country, mountain goats, bighorn sheep,
salmon, gray wolves and people share habitat across a landscape large
enough to sustain such
Idaho is growing. As demands for resources rise, wildlife, fish and forests
are all at risk. Only four million of Idaho's wild acres are secure in
the National Wilderness System. Most at risk is a big picture found in
central Idaho alone - a fabric of wilderness intact across more land than
anywhere else in the lower 48. A few pieces are protected, but most of
it - places like the Smoky Mountains, the Pioneers, and the South Fork
of the Salmon River - is not. And the largest piece still unprotected
the United States as of 2005*
In 1964, Idaho Senator Frank Church sponsored the law which created the National Wilderness Preservation System (NWPS). The system protects wild lands of outstanding scenic and natural values, to ensure that remnants of the original wilderness that shaped our nation will remain for posterity. Only the U.S. Congress can add lands to the Wilderness system. As of December 2005, there is 4.4 percent (over 106 million acres) of the U.S. land base in the NWPS.
Over half (56 million acres) is in Alaska. Only two percent of the Lower
48 states is protected as Wilderness. There are 44 states with some
Wilderness, plus Puerto Rico and its 10,000-acre rain forest Caribbean
Wilderness, as of 2005.
Wilderness in Idaho*
Idaho has six designated Wilderness areas, totaling 4,005,621 acres. This
is 7.6 percent of the state. Idaho Wilderness areas, year designated and
acres are: Selway-Bitterroot in 1964 (1,089,017 acres); Craters of the
Moon in 1970 (43,243 acres); Sawtooth in 1972 (217,088 acres);
in1975 (83,811 acres); Gospel Hump in 1978 (205,764 acres); and
Church River of No Return in1980 (2,366,698 acres).
Ranks 5th in Designated Wilderness*
Idaho ranks 5th in designated Wilderness. Here are the top 13 Wilderness
Alaska (58 million acres)
California (14 million
Arizona (4.5 million acres)
Washington (4.3 million
Idaho (4 million acres)
Montana (3.4 million acres)
Colorado (3.38 million acres)
Wyoming (3.1 million acres)
2.2 million acres)
New Mexico (1.6 million)
Florida (1.4 million)
History - Battle Over Castle Peak
In 1968, Castle Peak was threatened by an open pit mine. An outcry by
Idaho citizens stopped the mine and led to the creation of the Sawtooth
National Recreation Area in 1972.
Cloud Wilderness Recommendations
In 1972, in the Sawtooth National Recreation Act, Congress made half the
Boulder-White Clouds a Wilderness Study Area. In 1987, the Sawtooth and
Challis Forests recommended 224,350 acres be designated Wilderness. In
1989, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) recommended that 26,750 acres
be designated Wilderness. Unfortunately, these two recommendations are
not contiguous; the agencies did not coordinate their studies.
In 1983, Idaho citizens proposed a 460,000-acre Wilderness,
spanning Forest Service and BLM lands. In 1990, at the request of the
Idaho Outfitters and Guides Association, another 40,000 acres were added.
Total Wilderness recommendation: 500,000-acres. [For Sawtooth Wilderness
information and regulations go to the Sawtooth Forest web site. Sawtooth Wilderness trail data is also available here.
*Information provided by The Wilderness Society,
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