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Welcome to the Aldo Leopold Wilderness Research Institute. We are the only Federal research group in the United States dedicated to developing and applying knowledge to improve the protection and management of wilderness in America.

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park is located in central California in the Sierra Nevada mountains and we have done many visitor use studies there. Photo by Nyssa Landres

Aloha Lake in the Desolation Wilderness.

Emigrant Wilderness in the Stanislaus National Forest where we have conducted visitor use studies. Photo by Nyssa Landres

Kugrak River in the Gates of the Arctic Wilderness in Alaska. N. Landres

Kugrak River in the Gates of the Arctic Wilderness in Alaska. N. Landres

King Range on the Lost Coast National Conservation Area in California. R. Wick

King Range on the Lost Coast National Conservation Area in California. R. Wick

Amphibian research, particularly on amphibian declines, is important work conducted at the Leopold Institute. B. Hossack

Photo of a snake swallowing a frog. Amphibian research is an important part of the work done at Aldo Leopold.

Visitors canoeing in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in northern Minnesota. A. Schwaller.

Photo of visitors canoeing in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

Sunrise over the Grand Teton National Park.

Grand Teton Sunrise

Great Sand Dunes National Park

Great Sand Dunes NP


Wilderness offers people opportunities to escape daily routines, stress from work and urban living; escape from highly mechanized and technological dominance, among other things. While there are many positive social contributions of wilderness, there are also many on-site contributions to physical and mental health, such as finding opportunities to examine one's perspective on life and nature, learning about nature, photographing unique landscapes and...

The relationship between people and public lands influences response to management policies and practices. These relationships exist for the entire US population, not just visitors. Off-site benefits such as clean water and air; protection in coastal areas from hurricanes, floods and winds; and crucial refuges for threatened plants and animals flow from wilderness and are key to human well-being. Wilderness management agencies are charged with...

One of the major challenges wilderness managers is how to manage the natural role of fire. Wildfire was historically one of most important natural processes in many areas of the United States. Many species evolved with wildfire and, subsequently, many ecosystems in the US were adapted to fires of varying intensities and frequencies. Humans have altered these natural fire regimes in many ways, but most dramatically by suppressing fires.

The primary mandate of the Wilderness Act and all subsequent wilderness legislation, as well as the policies of all four wilderness managing agencies, is to preserve the wilderness character of the areas designated as wilderness. The only way to assess if management is preserving wilderness character is to monitor trend in wilderness character over time for every wilderness. Several factors make monitoring wilderness character a huge challenge, including the lack of a definition of wilderness character in the 1964 Wilderness Act and subsequent legislation, different agency cultures and traditions among the four wilderness managing agencies, the lack of consistent data among the four agencies...

Every year, the four wilderness managing agencies receive hundreds of proposals for all sorts of science and ecological restoration projects to be implemented inside designated wilderness. Most wilderness managers want to support science and restoration within the concepts and ideals of the Wilderness Act. All such projects require a special use permit and managers have the discretion to approve or deny them...

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