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Wilderness areas are large, natural areas of land which, together with their native plant and animal communities, remain essentially unchanged by modern human activity. They allow the natural processes of evolution to continue with minimal interference, which protects the existing biodiversity in a functioning natural system.

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This is important because the loss of species can have adverse impacts on the entire system.

Wilderness areas also often contain sites that are important to Aboriginal people, their landscapes a reminder of the Australian environment before colonisation.

Wilderness areas represent the largest, most pristine areas in the state's reserve system. The Wilderness Act 1987 affords declared wilderness the most secure level of protection, requiring it to be managed in a way that will maintain its pristine condition. Nearly all declared wilderness is within national parks and nature reserves and it is actively managed for fire, pests and weeds.

Worldwide wilderness is a scarce and diminishing resource which needs protecting to ensure it will be available for the benefit and enjoyment of future generations. The declaration of wilderness not only acknowledges the conservation significance of these areas but also their aesthetic and spiritual significance. NSW is one of the few developed places in the world where wilderness still exists and is among the first Australian states to legislate for wilderness protection.