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Wilderness science and its role in wilderness stewardship

Posted date: June 02, 2016

MISSOULA, Mont., June 9, 2016 - For so many people, wilderness areas provide a unique and special place to disconnect from civilization and reconnect with nature. It is easy to assume these lands require little to no management given their protected status but that can’t be farther from the truth. Of the 640 million acres of federal land in the United States, 110 million (17%) are designated as wilderness – challenged by many factors such as air pollution, climate change, invasive species and influence from adjacent land use. Effective wilderness stewardship relies on understanding how these factors impact wilderness characteristics and values and that is what wilderness science is all about.

Perseid meteor shower viewed from the Cache Creek Wilderness Area. Photo courtesy of Bob Wick, Bureau of Land Management Wilderness Specialist
Perseid meteor shower viewed from the Cache Creek Wilderness Area. Photo courtesy of Bob Wick, Bureau of Land Management Wilderness Specialist
The Journal of Forestry recently published a special issue dedicated to America’s National Wilderness Preservation System titled, Wilderness Science and Its Role in Wilderness Stewardship. It looks at the challenges facing the wilderness agencies – Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Forest Service. It includes peer-reviewed scientific findings on social science, economics, recreation, soundscapes, wildlife, relevancy, and the balancing act managers seek between minimizing interventions while effectively managing these lands. In the past, conference proceedings were the main outlet for such synopses but were often not peer reviewed and had limited distribution.

“We hope this issue broadens the perspectives of readers about the challenges facing wilderness managers and the important role science plays in helping them. We, the authors, appreciate the Journal of Forestry allowing us to use this important and widely distributed journal to inform people about wilderness,” said Susan Fox, Director of the Aldo Leopold Wilderness Research Institute.

The Aldo Leopold Wilderness Research Institute is the only Federal research group in the United States dedicated to the development and dissemination of knowledge needed to improve management of wilderness, parks, and similarly protected areas. It is a working partner of the National Wilderness Preservation System along with the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Rocky Mountain Research Station (RMRS) is one of seven units within the U.S. Forest Service Research and Development. RMRS maintains 14 field laboratories throughout a 12-state territory encompassing parts of the Great Basin, Southwest, Rocky Mountains, and the Great Plains. RMRS also administers and conducts research on 14 experimental forests, ranges and watersheds and maintains long-term research databases for these areas. While anchored in the geography of the West our research is global in scale. To find out more about the RMRS go to You can also follow us on Twitter at




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Cass Cairns
Public Affairs Specialist
(970) 498-1370