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Published in Environmental Law 34 (2004), pp. 1015-1089. Published by Lewis and Clark Law School.


The nation's preeminent preservation statute, the Wilderness Act of 1964, is now 40 years old. By authorizing a network of congressionally designated wilderness areas on public lands, the Act has proved invaluable for protecting special areas from the most intensive forms of intrusion by humankind But the Act is facing a midlife crisis, and legitimate questions have been raised about its continuing viability as a conservation tool. This Article concludes that the preservation of wild lands remains an essential component of federal public lands management, but that the Wilderness Act, standing alone, has not fulfilled its promise of securing an enduring resource of wild lands, President Clinton and his agencies employed a variety of techniques for identifying and protecting wild places on federal lands outside of the wilderness network. The designation and protection of national landscape monuments and roadless conservation areas were the most notable of these techniques. Both were highly controversial, but neither is unprecedented nor unlawful. An expanding mosaic of executive preserves is a necessary complement to the wilderness network. Congressional, presidential, and administrative actions are all necessary components of a comprehensive federal preservation strategy for the protection of biodiversity and sustainable development.

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