Wilderness Science

Science for Wilderness, Wilderness for Science

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Science is essential to wilderness stewardship. Once an area is designated as wilderness, stewardship strives to preserve the wilderness character of the area, and science gives managers vital information to make informed stewardship decisions. This short presentation from the Aldo Leopold Wilderness Research Institute, Wilderness Science for Stewardship, summarizes how science is being used to improve wilderness stewardship.

Wilderness is essential to science. Wilderness designation confers long term protection of relatively large landscapes, and this protection allows wilderness to be the cornerstone of our nation’s conservation portfolio and the premier place for science to learn about how untrammeled ecosystems function, and the personal and societal values derived from these landscapes.

The importance of science for wilderness and wilderness for science will only increase with time as the contrast between wilderness and developed lands widens, as the recognition of wilderness values grows, and as the threats to those values intensify. All science in wilderness is first reviewed by agency staff who will determine if the proposed research meets the high and unique legal standards to be permitted in wilderness. Conducting Science in Wilderness explains the challenges wilderness managers face in making these decisions.

  • Science informs wilderness stewardship as we learn more about ecological systems, individual species and their habitats, human behavior, and the successes and failures of various policies and management activities.
  • Science helps us understand the nature of the system for which we are a steward.
  • Science helps us learn how to correct human-caused perturbations in such systems.
  • Science helps us understand how systems might be used and enjoyed without destroying them.
  • Science helps us understand how valuable wilderness is to people and how it might enhance their lives.