The Gold Standard

Wilderness is the gold standard when it comes to protecting our most special places. Simply put, it’s the highest level of protection to ensure natural treasures are protected for future generations. Our public lands have a myriad of designations ranging from Reserves to scenic areas to riparian areas to recreation areas and beyond.  Each come with highly variable management guidelines, many with loop holes large enough to drive a logging truck through.


Spey casts on the iconic Rogue River. Photo by Ken Morrish.

Wilderness, however, is consistent in its prescription with clear guidelines of what is and what isn’t allowed. So while a National Monument in Florida could look drastically different from one in Washington, Wilderness areas have the same levels of protection across the nation.

In Wilderness, one can fish, backpack, kayak, snowshoe, hunt, horseback ride, hike, picnic or canoe, but you must leave your chainsaw and bulldozer at home. Motorized, and in some cases mechanized, uses are not allowed.

Areas with existing roads, cabins, or other buildings generally do not qualify to be considered Wilderness. Wilderness areas are primarily influenced by the forces of nature.

This designation is intended to preserve the very best remaining wild landscapes that are high in ecological value but free of buildings, roads, and other signs of development.  Currently only 4% of the Oregon landscape is protected as Wilderness. This is not a balanced approach by any definition. All our neighboring states have done a better job at protecting their natural heritage (WA= 10%, ID = 9%, CA=15%). Oregon has a number of unprotected natural treasures , we simply need to do a better job of protecting them.   And no place is more deserving than the Crater Lake region.