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In developing our wilderness research program, the Leopold Institute recognizes that wilderness means different things to different people. Wilderness can refer to lands designated or managed for:

  • the purpose of preserving natural conditions;
  • providing opportunities for solitude or primitive and unconfined recreation; and
  • for their scientific, educational, scenic, cultural, and historic values.

Wilderness can also refer more broadly to conditions offering personal opportunities for challenge, escape, or spiritual growth. The research and research application programs of the Leopold Institute address the breadth of these meanings.

Wilderness and other protected areas may provide the most appropriate standards of relatively unmodified landscapes, and in addition to ecological and social values, these natural areas have tremendous scientific value. Wilderness offers a unique laboratory for scientists to improve our understanding of natural systems, and a unique opportunity for land managers to sustain ecosystems for future generations.