What is Stewardship?

Simply designating a wilderness does not assure its preservation. An understanding of wilderness values is needed to guide all activities in wilderness, including grazing, access to private lands, mining, fish and wildlife, cultural sites, fire, and insects and disease. Management is needed to minimize the impacts of the wilderness visitor on the immediate environment and the experience of other visitors. Wilderness management applies guidelines derived from social and natural sciences to preserve the qualities for which wilderness was established. 

The long-term values of wilderness to our society and the world will be naturalness and wildness, and protection from human influence. A better understanding of these values will help keep human influence to a minimum while still providing opportunities for visitors to enjoy and experience the wilderness.

Learn more about Wilderness Science and Stewardship in this powerpoint

What types of issues do wilderness managers deal with?

Resource Management

  • How are wildlife and fish managed in wilderness?

  • How is commercial grazing managed in wilderness?

  • Is mining allowed in wilderness?

  • How can private landowners get access to private land within wilderness?

  • How are water resources managed in wilderness?

  • What is the fire management policy in wilderness?

  • How are insects and disease controlled in wilderness?

  • Are tree cutting and planting allowed in wilderness?

  • What is being done to protect air quality in wilderness?

  • How are historic and archeological resources managed in wilderness?

  • Can scientific research be conducted in wilderness?

  • What is different about wilderness in Alaska?

Recreational Use of Wilderness

  • What kind of recreational opportunities does wilderness offer?

  • What are managing agencies doing about wilderness education?

  • What is "Leave No Trace" camping?

  • What restrictions are there on visiting wilderness?

  • Are outfitters and guides allowed in wilderness?

  • Is recreation livestock grazing allowed in wilderness?

Prohibitions & Conflicting Use

  • Why are motorized equipment and mechanical transport prohibited in wilderness?

  • Why are some non-motorized devices such as hang gliders, parasails and bicycles not allowed in wilderness?

  • What about geocaching?

  • What are the most common violations of the law in wilderness?

  • What is the policy on aircraft flights over wilderness?

  • What is the policy on staging competitive events in wilderness?

Planning & Administration

  • What is the minimum necessary philosophy behind administrative activities?

  • Are cabins and lookouts allowed in wilderness?

  • Are trails, bridges, and signs used in wilderness?

  • Are there many differences between agency policies in wilderness management?

  • What kind of wilderness management research is Federally funded?

  • What future changes might affect wilderness management?

Who Manages Wilderness?

Four land management agencies, under two departments-the Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture-have been given the awesome responsibility of managing the diverse National Wilderness Preservation System. While each agency maintains its own specific management mission, all have been successful in finding ways to mesh their independent missions with wilderness management goals and objectives. 

Common to all wilderness-managing agencies is the guidance and direction that is provided by the Wilderness Act. Although other wilderness legislation is followed when applicable, and each agency has its own wilderness policy, the Wilderness Act bonds theses agencies together in the planning, implementation, and monitoring of America's wilderness system. 

The congressionally designated wildlands of this country have been entrusted to the Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service, Forest Service, and the National Park Service. All of these agencies strive to meet the challenge of managing the American legacy of wilderness for the use and enjoyment of the people today and in the future. 

Bureau of Land Management agency shield image Bureau of Land Management

The Bureau of Land Management manages about 245 million acres, over 8,700,000 of which are Wilderness. Among other activities, the Bureau conserves these lands and their historical and cultural resources for the public's use and enjoyment. 

Fish and Wildlife Service agency shield image Fish and Wildlife Service

The Fish and Wildlife Service conserves the nation's wild animals and their habitats by managing a system of 567 national wildlife refuges and other areas, totaling about 150 million acres of land and water, nearly 20,000,000 of which are Wilderness. 

Forest Service agency shield image Forest Service

The Forest Service manages national forests and grasslands. It conducts forestry research and works with forest managers on state and private lands. The Forest Service oversees 193 million acres of national forest and other lands, over 36,000,000 of which are Wilderness. 

National Park Service agency shield image  National Park Service

The National Park Service was established to protect the nation's natural, historical, and cultural resources and to provide places for recreation. The Park Service manages 401 national parks, national monuments, historic sites, memorials, seashores, and battlefields. It oversees nearly 44,000,000 acres of Wilderness.