What is a Special Management Area? What is Wilderness?

Special Management Areas

Special management areas (SMAs) provide permanent legislative direction for special management of public lands to protect and provide for important conservation, recreation, economic, and scientific values uses. SMA's can be tailored to existing uses and are not guided by any existing legislation. For example, SMAs can be designated to provide outstanding opportunities for a particular suite of recreational activities can also focus on the conservation of rare species or critical habitat.


Wilderness is the most protective designation for federal public lands, ensuring that certain public lands will remain undeveloped and natural as defined by the Wilderness Act of 1964. Wilderness provides outstanding habitat for wildlife, some of the best opportunities for hunting and fishing, and excellent backcountry recreation. Motorized, mechanized, and industrial uses are restricted in wilderness.

By using special management areas and wilderness, the coalition was able to protect a greater variety of lands for water, wildlife, recreation, and other important values and uses.