- "The most intact, undisturbed wild natural areas left on our planet—those last truly wild places that humans do not control and have not developed with roads, pipelines or other industrial infrastructure".
Wilderness areas can be found in reserves, estates, farms, conservation areas, ranches, National Forests, National Parks and even in urban areas along rivers, gulches or any undeveloped areas. These areas are important for the survival of species, biodiversity, ecology, conservation, solitude, and recreation.
From this point of view, it is the wildness of a place that makes it a wilderness. The mere presence or activity of people does not disqualify an area from being "wilderness". Many ecosystems that are, or have been, inhabited or influenced by activities of people may still be considered "wild." This way of looking at wilderness includes areas within which natural processes operate without human interference.
The WILD Foundation states that wilderness areas have two dimensions: they must be biologically intact and legally protected. The World Conservation Union (IUCN) classifies wilderness at two levels, Ia (Strict Nature Preserves) and Ib (Wilderness areas).
Probably no place on earth is completely untouched by humanity, either due to past occupation by indigenous people, or through global processes such as climate change. Activities on the margins of specific wilderness areas, such as fire suppression and the interruption of animal migration, also affect the wilderness.
Especially in wealthier, industrialized nations, it has a specific legal meaning as well: as land where development is prohibited by law. Many nations have designated wilderness, including Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and the United States.
Many new parks are currently being planned and legally passed by various Parliaments and Legislatures at the urging of dedicated individuals around the globe who believe that "in the end, dedicated, inspired people empowered by effective legislation will ensure that the spirit and services of wilderness will thrive and permeate our society, preserving a world that we are proud to hand over to those who come after us".
- The word wilderness derives from the notion of "wildness"—in other words, that which is not controllable by humans. The word's etymology is from the Old English wildeornes, which in turn derives from wildeor meaning wild beast (wild + deor = beast, deer) (The Collins English Dictionary, 2000).
- "What is a Wilderness Area". The WILD Foundation. http://www.wild.org/main/about/what-is-a-wilderness-area/. Retrieved 2009-02-20.
- No Man's Garden by Daniel B. Botkin p155-157
- Wilderness Areas are Biologically Intact
- Wilderness as a Protected Area Classification
- "WHAT IS WILDLAND? - a review". http://www.wildland-network.org.uk/wn_what_wildland.htm. Retrieved 2009-07-14.
- Vance G. Martin and Ian C. Player, Forward, A Handbook on International Wilderness Law and Policy