Research & Science
The Research and Scientific Activities provides information for wilderness managers and scientists to help determine what types of scientific activities are appropriate in wilderness. The toolbox provides the laws and agency policies affecting these activities but features a tool to provide a consistent and comprehensive framework for evaluating proposals: A Framework to Evaluate Proposals for Scientific Activities in Wilderness. Toolboxes are comprehensively reviewed and updated approximately every three years, with intermittent small updates and additions in the interim. To suggest new materials for inclusion, email Lisa Ronald at email@example.com. Date of last update: 01/17/2019.
How do the federal agencies that manage wilderness decide what types of scientific activities are appropriate inside wilderness? This isn’t just a rhetorical or academic question because some wildernesses receive hundreds of proposals a year, and in other cases managers and scientists have argued and gone to court over what is considered appropriate research inside wilderness. While scientific use is one of the stated purposes of wilderness, the legal mandate to "preserve wilderness character" sets a higher standard for approving scientific activities inside wilderness than in any other type of area: motorized equipment such as chainsaws or drills, mechanized transport such as wheeled carts, and installations such as gauging stations or data loggers are illegal unless they meet very specific conditions. Adding to the potential for disagreements between managers and scientists are common misperceptions: scientists may not understand the legal requirements for working in wilderness and feel that they can do whatever they want, while wilderness managers may not understand the benefits of the proposed research and think that if research can be done outside the wilderness, then it should be.
A key problem is that there is no consistent and comprehensive framework for evaluating proposals for scientific activities in wilderness. Without such a framework, decisions to permit or not permit research can seem arbitrary, in turn leading to frustration and acrimony between managers and scientists. Some wilderness managers believe that the minimum requirements process is sufficient to manage research in wilderness, but this process doesn’t evaluate and weigh the benefits and impacts of proposed research. Furthermore, some research may be conducted without violating any of the Wilderness Act Section 4(c) prohibited uses, nut nonetheless still degrade wilderness character.
A tool has been developed that provides a consistent and comprehensive approach for evaluating proposals for scientific activities in wilderness (A Framework to Evaluate Proposals for Scientific Activities in Wilderness). This tool is composed of four sequential steps or filters and will allow managers and scientists to talk in a common language to understand the needs and concerns of one another. The need for such a tool and better communication between managers and scientists will only increase with the increasing demands for research and monitoring in wilderness to understand the effects of global climate change and other pervasive, regional, and national scale threats to wilderness.
Agency Policies and Guidelines on Research and Science in Wilderness
Framework to Evaluate Science Proposals
- FrameworkLandres, Peter, ed. 2010. A framework to evaluate proposals for scientific activities in wilderness. Gen. Tech. Rep. RMRS-GTR-234WWW. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. 74 p.
This evaluation framework provides an approach for thinking through and documenting how proposals for scientific activities in wilderness may be evaluated.
- Worksheets and Instructions
- Worksheets and Instructions (adapted by the NPS for use in AK)
Presentations Describing Use of the Framework
Proposal Evaluation Tools
- Quickly Identify Research Activities of Concern
- Guidelines to Give to a Scientist
- Example of Climate Change Research
Determine the Amount of Analysis Needed
Evaluating Proposals for Scientific Activity in Wilderness: A Framework to Guide Evaluations and Relevant Examples 2014 Webinar
Presented on October 1, 2014 by wilderness professionals Justin Preisendorfer of the White Mountain NF, Alison Steiner and Koren Nydick of Sequoia-Kings Canyon NP, and Regina Rochefort of North Cascades NP. This webinar included examples of the framework for evaluating and deciding whether to approve proposals for scientific activity inside designated wilderness.
- Albright, H.M. 1933. Research in the national parks. The Scientific Monthly 36:483-501.
- Anderson, R.L. 1999. Research administration in wilderness: defining the "minimum requirement" exception. Pages 415-417 in On the Frontiers of Conservation: Proceedings of the 10th Conference on Research and Resource Management in Parks and on Public Lands (D. Harmon, editor). The George Wright Society, Hancock, MI.
- Barns, C.V. 2000. Paleontological excavations in designated wilderness: theory and practice. Pages 155-159 in Wilderness Science in a Time of Change, Volume 3 (S.F. McCool, D.N. Cole, W.T. Borrie, J. O’Loughlin, compilers). USDA Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station Proceeding RMRS-P-15-VOL-3, Fort Collins, CO.
- Bayless, J. 1999. Regulating National Park Service research and collecting: a fifty-year search for a legal, flexible, and standardized approach. Pages 418-422 in On the Frontiers of Conservation: Proceedings of the 10th Conference on Research and Resource Management in Parks and on Public Lands (D. Harmon, editor). The George Wright Society, Hancock, MI.
- Bratton, S.P. 1988. Environmental monitoring in wilderness. Pages 103-112 in Wilderness Benchmark, Proceedings of the National Wilderness Colloquium. USDA Forest Service General Technical Report SE-51, Southeastern Forest Experiment Station, Asheville, NC.
- Butler, L.M., and R.S. Roberts. 1986. Use of wilderness areas for research. Pages 398-405 in Proceedings-National Wilderness Research Conference: Current Research (R.C. Lucas, compiler). USDA Forest Service General Technical Report INT-212, Intermountain Research Station, Ogden, UT.
- Eichelberger, J., and A. Sattler. 1994. Conflict of values necessitates public lands research policy. Transactions of the American Geophysical Union 75:505-508.
- Franklin, J.F. 1987. Scientific use of wilderness. Pages 42-46 in Proceedings--National Wilderness Research Conference: Issues, State-of-Knowledge, Future Directions (R.C. Lucas, compiler). USDA Forest Service General Technical Report INT-220, Intermountain Research Station, Ogden, UT.
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- Graber, D.M. 1988. The role of research in wilderness. George Wright Forum 5(4):55-59.
- Graber, D.M. 2002. Scientific values of public parks. George Wright Forum 19(2):63-66.
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- Landres, P., J. Alderson, and D.J. Parsons. 2003. The challenge of doing science in wilderness: historical, legal, and policy context. George Wright Forum 20(3):42-49.
- Landres, P., S. Boutcher, L. Merigliano, C. Barns, D. Davis, T. Hall, S. Henry, B. Hunter, P. Janiga, M. Laker, A. McPherson, D.S. Powell, M. Rowan, and S. Sater. 2005. Monitoring selected conditions related to wilderness character: a national framework. USDA Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station General Technical Report RMRS-GTR-151, Fort Collins, CO.
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- Leopold, A. 1949. A Sand County almanac and sketches here and there. Oxford University Press. London, England.
- McCloskey, M. 1999. Changing views of what the wilderness system is all about. Denver University Law Review 76:369-381.
- Meyer, S. 1999. The role of legislative history in agency decision making: a case study of wilderness airstrip management in the United States. International Journal of Wilderness 5(2):9-12.
- Oelfke, J.G., R.O. Peterson, J.A. Vucetich, and L.M Vucetich. 2000. Wolf research in the Isle Royale Wilderness: do the ends justify the means? Pages 246-251 in Wilderness Science in a Time of Change, Volume 3 (S.F. McCool, D.N. Cole, W.T. Borrie, J. O’Loughlin, compilers). USDA Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station Proceeding RMRS-P-15-VOL-3, Fort Collins, CO.
- Parsons, D.J. 2000. The challenge of scientific activities in wilderness. Pages 252-257 in Wilderness Science in a Time of Change, Volume 3 (S.F. McCool, D.N. Cole, W.T. Borrie, J. O’Loughlin, compilers). USDA Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station Proceeding RMRS-P-15-VOL-3, Fort Collins, CO.
- Parsons, D.J., and D.M. Graber. 1991. Horses, helicopters and hi-tech: managing science in wilderness. Pages 90-94 in Preparing to Manage Wilderness in the 21st Century (P.C. Reed, compiler). USDA Forest Service Southeastern Forest and Experiment Station General Technical Report SE-66, Asheville, NC.
- Rohlf, D., and D.L. Honnold. 1988. Managing the balance of nature: the legal framework of wilderness management. Ecology Law Quarterly 15:249-279.
- Peterson, D.L. 1996. Research in parks and protected areas: forging the link between science and management. Pages 417-434 in National Parks and Protected Areas: Their Role in Environmental Protection (R.G. Wright, J. Lemmons, editors). Blackwell Science.
- Public Law 88-577. Wilderness Act. September 3, 1964. 16 U.S.C. 1131-1136.
- Public Law 96-487. Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. December 2, 1980. 94 Statute 2371-2551.
- Public Law 98-550. Wyoming Wilderness Act of 1984. October 30, 1984. 98 Statute 2807-2815.
- Public Law 103-433. California Desert Protection Act of 1994. October 31, 1994. 108 Statute 4471-4525.
- Scott, D.W. 2002. "Untrammeled," "wilderness character," and the challenges of wilderness preservation. Wild Earth 11(3/4):72-79.
- Sharman, L.C., P. Landres, and S. Boudreau. 2007. Developing a framework for evaluating proposals for research in wilderness: science to protect and learn from parks. Alaska Park Science 6(2):100-103.
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- Stokstad, E. 2001. Utah’s fossil trove beckons, and tests, researchers. Science 294:41-42.
- Suarez, A.V. 2009. Science for parks/parks for science. Park Science 26(1):14-16.
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- Zahniser, H. 1956. The need for wilderness areas. The Living Wilderness 59(Winter to Spring):37-43.