The Wilderness Protection Act 1992 (SA) enables the creation of wilderness protection areas and wilderness protection zones which represent the highest level of protection offered to natural areas in South Australia. The Act covers areas of crown land, or with permission of the owners, private land which satisfy the ‘wilderness criteria’ to justify protection as, or restoration to, wilderness. The criteria require that the land and its ecosystems must not have been affected, or at least only to a minor extent, by modern technology and must not have been seriously affected by exotic animals, plants or other exotic organisms. The Act also allows buffer zones or boundaries to be adopted to enable wilderness protection.

Up until 2001, only a few wilderness protection areas were declared under the Act, all of them within existing National Parks and Wildlife Act Reserves on Kangaroo Island and Eyre Peninsula. In recent years, more places have been declared or proposed as wilderness in outback areas.

Once an area is declared to be a wilderness protection area or zone it ceases to be a reserve under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972 (SA). A wilderness protection area or zone cannot be abolished, altered or have its name changed without a resolution passed by both Houses of State Parliament. Mining is restricted in wilderness protection areas and zones to activities allowed by proclamation of the Governor. The relevant minister must take into account the code of management of wilderness protection areas and zones under the Wilderness Protection Act 1992 (SA) when acting in administration of the Mining Act 1971 (SA) [Mining Act 1971 (SA) s 10B]. Grazing and primary production is prohibited, as are the construction of roads, tracks, buildings or structures, unless specifically authorised by the plan of management for the particular wilderness protection area or zone.