Keeping the Wild in Wilderness

Mountain range with starry background

FORT COLLINS, Colo., Dec. 9, 2015 – Wilderness has a distinct character. It provides a unique environment where one can disconnect from civilization and reconnect with nature. Monitoring trends in wilderness character using a consistent approach is key to preserving wilderness areas and is the focus of the recently updated federal interagency strategy Keeping It Wild 2.

Five qualities of wilderness character, using the statutory language of the 1964 Wilderness Act, form the foundation of the monitoring strategy. The five include, “Untrammeled” (free and unconstrained), “Natural,” “Undeveloped,” “Solitude or Primitive and Unconfined Recreation,” and “Other Features of Value.” This strategy is designed to be nationally consistent and locally relevant.

“We looked back on lessons learned from 15 years of developing and implementing wilderness character monitoring across the National Wilderness Preservation System during the process of updating this national framework in order to better inform and improve wilderness stewardship,” said lead author Peter Landres of the U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station and Aldo Leopold Wilderness Research Institute. “Keeping It Wild 2 is the result of several years of work by hundreds of employees who contributed to this effort from four federal agencies.”
Wilderness areas are found in 44 of the 50 United States and include remote places with towering peaks in the Rocky Mountains, sandy deserts of the Southwest, swamps in the Southeast, tundra in Alaska, and hardwoods forests in the Northeast. Wilderness areas are part of the National Wilderness Preservation System and are managed by four federal agencies: U.S. Department of Interior Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, and Fish and Wildlife Service; and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service.

A copy of the strategy is available for download at: www.treesearch.fs.fed.us/pubs/49721.

To learn more about wilderness go to www.wilderness.net, a site that connects federal employees, scientists, educators, and the public with their wilderness heritage.


The Rocky Mountain Research Station is one of seven units within the U.S. Forest Service Research and Development – the most extensive natural resources research organization in the world. RMRS maintains 12 field laboratories throughout a 12-state territory encompassing parts of the Great Basin, Southwest, Rocky Mountains, and the Great Plains. RMRS also administers and conducts research on 14 experimental forests, ranges and watersheds and maintains long-term research databases for these areas. To find out more about the RMRS go to www.fs.fed.us/rmrs. You can also follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/usfs_rmrs.