Inventory and Evaluation of Wilderness Characteristics Process

ProcessEach national forest undertaking Forest Plan Revision under the 2012 Planning Rule must complete a process of identifying and evaluating lands that may be suitable for inclusion in the National Wilderness Preservation System, and determine whether to recommend any of the evaluated lands to Congress for wilderness designation. Congress reserves the authority to designate wilderness through legislation.

Frequently Asked Questions on the Inventory and Evaluation of Wilderness Characteristics Process (english, en espanol)

Steps of the Wilderness Process

Forest Service Handbook 1909.12 Chapter 70 provides direction and guidance for the four-step process (as depicted in the image on the right) to be completed as one part of the larger Plan Revision effort.

Click here for presentation providing an overview of the process.

Step 1: Inventory

The purpose of the inventory steps was to identify all National Forest lands in the plan area that may have wilderness characteristics using a given set of criteria.  Public involvement and meetings were held in June and August 2017 to provide information on the process, its steps, and to seek public input and feedback on the Inventory and Evaluation steps.

Final Inventory Process Paper (September 2017)

Final Inventory Maps (June 2018) include all National Forest System areas that are identified to move on to the next step of the process, which is the evaluation of the inventoried lands.  This is only a preliminary step in a larger process and does not mean that all areas on the Final Inventory map will be recommended or managed as Wilderness.

You can view the inventoried areas using our interactive web map StoryMap.  There are also detailed final inventory maps (in .pdf format) for each District available below.  These maps can be made available in hardcopy form upon request (email or call 575-388-8280).

Final Inventory GIS Data (June 2018)

Step 2: Evaluation

For the second step of the process, the evaluation examines the level of wilderness characteristics possessed by the lands identified in the previous Inventory step. The Gila National Forest developed the evaluation process paper (english, en espanol) used to produce the final evaluation report after listening to stakeholder ideas during community and technical meetings and review periods that provided opportunities to submit written comments.  Keep in mind that this is only an early step in a larger process and inclusion of an area in the evaluation step does not mean the area will be recommended or managed as a wilderness.

There are also detailed final evaluation maps (in .pdf format) for each District available below.  These maps can be made available in hardcopy form upon request (email or call 575-388-8280).


Step 3: Analysis

The Gila National Forest is currently in the middle of this step, which involves analysis of the evaluated areas that are determined to be potentially suitable for inclusion in one or more alternatives as part of the Forest Plan Revision National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process. The analysis process is outlined in Volume 3 Appendix F of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement.  There has been consideration of other factors (such as impacts to local existing or future forest products uses, effects to restoration needs and defensible space from wildfire/wildland urban interface, etc.) that have relevance for consideration of whether an area should be recommended, or not, and not just limited to ranking of wilderness characteristics. For more details on how the analysis criteria were applied for each alternative, please see the Analysis Documentation document.

Step 4: Recommendation

The Forest Supervisor (Responsible Official) will decide which areas, if any, to recommend to Congress for inclusion in the National Wilderness Preservation System.  Only Congress may designate wilderness.


Draft Inventory Maps (October 2017)

Draft Inventory GIS Data (October 2017)

Draft Evaluation Process Paper (October 2017)

Draft Evaluation Report (July 2018)

Guide to Making Comments - Evaluation (July 2018)

Draft Evaluation Maps (July 2018)

Draft Evaluation Maps with Range Allotments Shown

Draft Evaluation GIS Data (July 2018)


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