Wilderness Evaluation Process

The Wilderness Evaluation Process consists of four steps: Inventory, Evaluation, Analysis, and Recommendation.

For a general overview of the Wilderness Evaluation Process view the Region 4 Wilderness Evaluation Guide.


Step 1: Inventory

The Inventory applies size, road, and other improvement criteria (vegetation treatments, recreation sites, etc.) to the Forest administrative boundary, resulting in a set of GIS polygons, or units, that meet these criteria.

           Wilderness Inventory Shapefile

For more information about the Inventory process or to view previous draft maps click here


Step 2: Evaluation

Areas identified in the Inventory  are then carried forward to the Evaluation where Wilderness characteristic criteria are applied to determine if these areas (Evaluation Units) have Wilderness characteristics, and to what extent.  The Evaluation Criteria area based on the definitions in the Wilderness Act and can be summarized as follows:

Apparent Naturalness

This criterion evaluates the degree to which an area generally appears to be affected by the forces of nature, with the imprint of man’s work substantially unnoticeable.

Outstanding Opportunities for Solitude or Unconfined Types of Recreation

This criterion evaluates the degree to which the area has outstanding opportunities for solitude or for a primitive and unconfined type of recreation.   An area only has to possess one or the other; the area does not have to possess outstanding opportunities for both elements, nor does it need to have outstanding opportunities on every acre. 

Unique and Outstanding Qualities

This criterion evaluates the degree to which the area may contain ecological, geological, or other features of scientific, educational, scenic, or historical value.  These values are not required to be present in an area for the area to be recommended for inclusion in the National Wilderness Preservation System, but their presence should be identified and evaluated where they exist.


This criterion evaluates the degree to which the area may be managed to preserve its wilderness characteristics, considering current conditions.


The result of the Wilderness Evaluation is a report detailing the Wilderness characteristics of each Evaluation Unit.

For more information regarding Wilderness Characteristics and how they are measured review the Draft Wilderness Evaluation Process Guide


Step 3: Analysis

The Forest then reviews the Evaluation findings during the Analysis, selecting areas to bring forward into a range of alternatives (if any) for analysis in the Forest Plan Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). This analysis will determine any potential impacts associated with recommending areas for Wilderness.


Step 4: Recommendation

In the final phase, the Recommendation, the Forest submits a recommendation for areas it has determined are suitable for Wilderness. The recommendation is published at the same time as the official Plan Revision Record of Decision (ROD) and is forwarded to the Chief of the Forest Service and then onto Congress, which is the only entity that can make Wilderness designations.

Over the course of the four phases of the Wilderness Evaluation Process, the Forest will be soliciting public input, particularly concerning areas that are (or are not) suitable for Wilderness, as well as information concerning the location of improvements, roads, and other data that would affect the Forest's analysis.