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. Located on the University of Montana campus in Missoula, the Leopold Institute was formally established in 1993 by the U.S. Forest Service and is administered by the Rocky Mountain Research Station. We operate under a Memorandum of Understanding among the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Geological Survey, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Park Service. Managers and scientists from these agencies play an active role in developing Leopold Institute programs and priorities.
The institute’s impact is national and international in scope, and its work is guided by an interagency wilderness policy council and steering committee. Leopold Institute scientists focus on wilderness and wildlands protected areas issues and have a long history of supporting managers stewarding the U.S. National Wilderness Preservation System, as well as collaborating with academic, NGO, community, and other partners within the U.S. and internationally.
The Leopold Institute's research staff currently includes seven full-time scientists (four ecologists, a social scientist, a geographer, and a biologist). We also periodically employ research assistants, graduate students, and post-doctoral associates. All Institute research strives to improve wilderness management and respond to the needs of wilderness management agencies. We conduct support and coordinate research on the biological, social attributes, and benefits of wilderness and on the threats to these attributes and benefits. Research activities include in-house studies as well as cooperative and contract projects with scientists from other agencies and universities across the United States.
Through research application, the Institute is committed to improving communication and to forging closer ties between managers and scientists. Utilizing various methodologies we assure research information is readily available to managers, educators, policymakers, other scientists, and the general public.
COLLABORATION AND PARTNERSHIP
To accomplish its mission, the Leopold Institute depends on collaboration and partnerships with a wide variety of individuals and organizations. Collaboration with the many other scientists who conduct research that is either important to wilderness management or that use wilderness as study sites, as well as collaboration with managers who use the science, is particularly important. In 2005 the Leopold Institute established a Visiting Expert and Exchange Program to facilitate the exchange of ideas, expertise and experiences among and between scientists, managers, and others interested in application of science to the management and stewardship of wilderness.