Wilderness has been described as the original and best of planet Earth - those wildest landscapes where nature still dominates over human activities, where modern developments like cities, farms, roads and mines have not pushed the bush and wildlife into the background. These precious areas are mostly within existing national parks. They are recognised and protected in New South Wales under special wilderness legislation. Wilderness gives stronger protection over national park land but areas must pass a stringent assessment to qualify.
Two-thirds of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area is of such high natural integrity that it has been either declared or assessed as wilderness. In the north, the 361,000 hectare Wollemi Wilderness is the largest wilderness in New South Wales, as well as the largest in eastern Australia between Cape York Peninsula and Tasmania.
The 125,000 hectare Kanangra-Boyd Wilderness in the south is smaller, but still the second largest wilderness in New South Wales. Two other wilderness areas have been designated: Nattai (30,000 hectares) in the south-east and Grose (38,000 hectares) in the central Kedumba sector. A Yengo Wilderness in the north-east and a Murruin Wilderness in the south-west have also been assessed.
In the past, the connection of indigenous people to country was sometimes overlooked in the task of identifying the remaining wilderness. Now, it is recognised that all 'wild' areas in Australia have been influenced by thousands of generations of Aboriginal management and that traditional custodians continue to have strong connections to these landscapes. Signs of Aboriginal occupation are found throughout the Greater Blue Mountains, even in the most rugged heart of what we now call the Wollemi Wilderness.
No part of Australia has remained completely unaffected by 200 years of white settlement either. Introduced animals and plants, water and air pollution and changed fire patterns may occur, even where the natural environment appears to be intact. But wilderness is 'the best that is left', and the priority is to keep it that way. In wilderness, the emphasis is on an ecosystem approach to conservation - protecting and restoring the natural environment and supporting the survival of native plants and animals.
That's why the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service actively manages wilderness. Feral animals and weeds are controlled, threatened species are monitored and bushfire is managed.
Access is limited to essential management operations and low-impact recreation like bushwalking and canoeing. There are no public roads and no visitor facilities in wilderness. For visitors, self-reliance is the key to safety and enjoyment.