What does wilderness mean to you?
It depends... some country folk may feel like they are in the wilderness by walking down the streets of New York City, and some city folk may have a sense of being in a wilderness when they step onto a dirt trail or off pavement. Wilderness and the American Mind; different meanings for different people depending on one's perspective. However, there is a legal meaning that public land managers use to protect Wilderness values and character as an Enduring Wilderness Resource for present and future generations.
The Wilderness Act was passed on September 3,1964, a time of true change for our country: the civil rights and environmental movements, Vietnam War, and the writing of Silent Spring by Rachel Carson. It was a time of transition from the industrial age to the idea that we can't keep developing our lands in an uncontrolled manner, extracting resources without thought of future impacts, and polluting our human environment (people, air, water, plants, soils, and animals) in a manner that results in a slow death.
"In order to assure that an increasing population, accompanied by expanding settlement and growing mechanization,
does not occupy and modify all areas within the United States and its possessions, leaving no lands designated for preservation and protection in their natural condition ... these wilderness areas shall be administered for the use and enjoyment of the American people in such manner as will leave them unimpaired for future use and enjoyment as wilderness, and so as to provide for the protection of these areas ..." P.L. 88-577 Sect. 2.a., 1964