Wilderness Management Plan

Under guidelines established by the 1964 Wilderness Act, the Seashore's Otis Pike Fire Island High Dune Wilderness was designated on December 23, 1980. Three years later, the first formal Wilderness Management Plan for this area was approved.

In 2016, a General Management Plan for Fire Island National Seashore, which included a Wilderness Stewardship Plan (WSP), was approved. The WSP will guide decisions on the future use and protection of the congressionally designated wilderness area and areas adjacent to it designated for backcountry camping.


A Brief History of Wilderness Management on Fire Island

The Wilderness Act was signed into law on September 3, 1964, a few days before Fire Island National Seashore was established on September 11 of that same year.

When Fire Island National Seashore was created, the Secretary of the Interior was authorized to acquire property by condemnation in an approximately eight-mile area from the eastern boundary of Davis Park to the western boundary of Smith Point County Park. Owners of property in this zone on July 1, 1963, were given the option of a life tenancy or up to a 25-year tenancy after selling their property to the National Park Service. Both this portion of Fire Island and the Sunken Forest area were afforded special protection from the incursion of roads and ecologically incompatible uses by the park's enabling legislation.

Fire Island National Seashore's 1977 General Managemnet Plan provided direction for the planning and use of the High Dune Management Unit. These objectives included protection of natural qualities, provision for low-density recreational uses, minimal facilities and programs to interpret the outstanding natural resources. The 1977 GMP management objectives also specified removing man-made structures, managing the unit as a primitive area, and maintaining the primitive qualities of the unit so as to not preclude its potential wilderness classification.

A preliminary Wilderness proposal was reviewed in the spring of 1980. With strong support of the Fire Island Wilderness Committee, in December of 1980 Congress designated 1,363 acres of the Seashore as the Otis Pike Fire Island High Dune Wilderness, named in honor of a nine-term local Congressman.

The Wilderness Management Plan was released in November 1983, followed by a Wilderness Camping Policy in 1984.

The last of the 25-year leaseholders sadly left Skunk Hollow in 1992, and the old homes and were removed soon thereafter. Artesian wells in the Wilderness were capped in the early 2000s. The former jeep trail, “Burma Road,” has gradually become overgrown; it was trimmed in early 2006 to help maintain the hiking trail.

Overnight use of the Fire Island Wilderness has grown significantly over the past decade.

Fire Island National Seashore's General Management Plan, which includes the Wilderness Stewardship Plan and was approved in 2016, will guide the management of wilderness for the next 15 years.


Wilderness Directives

All National Park Service lands are evaluated to determine their eligibility for inclusion within the national wilderness preservation system. Those lands that are determined to possess wilderness character-like the Otis Pike Fire Island High Dune Wilderness-are managed according to the criteria found in the 2006 Management Policies, Chapter 6.

Director's Order #41 (May 13, 2013): Wilderness Preservation and Management and NPS Reference Manual 41 providesfurther guidance for the management of these special places.

To learn more about the National Wilderness Preservation System, visit the following sites:

Last updated: March 31, 2017

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