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The challenge of doing science in wilderness: historical, legal, and policy context

Posted date: June 21, 2006
Publication Year: 
Authors: Landres, Peter B.; Alderson, Judy; Parsons, David J.
Publication Series: 
Miscellaneous Publication
Source: George Wright forum. 20(3): 42-49


Lands designated by Congress under the Wilderness Act of 1964 (Public Law 88-577) offer unique opportunities for social and biophysical research in areas that are relatively unmodified by modern human actions. Wilderness designation also imposes a unique set of constraints on the methods that may be used or permitted to conduct this research. For example, legislated restrictions on mechanical transport potentially make access difficult in large and remote wildernesses, while restrictions on motorized equipment and installations may prevent use of certain tools, data loggers, standard monumentation methods, and other routinely used scientific techniques. Wilderness is also managed by four federal agencies in two departments (the Forest Service in the Department of Agriculture and the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Fish and Wildlife Service in the Department of the Interior) that may interpret wilderness legislation differently, and have different policies regarding scientific activities in wilderness (Butler and Roberts 1986). Legal restrictions and agency differences, combined with a general lack of effective communication between managers and scientists, have led to increasing concern among wilderness managers (Bayless 1999; Barns 2000) and scientists (Franklin 1987; Bratton 1988; Peterson 1996; Eichelberger and Sattler 1994; Stokstad 2001) over lost opportunities for advancing science and improving wilderness protection.


Landres, Peter; Alderson, Judy; Parsons, David J. 2003. The challenge of doing science in wilderness: historical, legal, and policy context. George Wright forum. 20(3): 42-49