Assessment of Wilderness in America

The Leopold Institute is working with partners to develop a comprehensive assessment of the state of wilderness in America. This assessment documents the current state of the wilderness system, including ecosystem representation, baseline evaluation of wilderness character, determination of impacts from climate and land use change, estimates of habitat connectivity and fragmentation, and a description of the values and benefits society derives from these lands. The primary audience for this assessment is the four federal agencies that manage wilderness and the wilderness organizations to work for the continued protection of these lands. We expect that it will also inform the public and Congress on the health and vitality of these lands and current and future threats.

This assessment will be developed with both existing data and information as well as new data collection and analyses. We will cooperate with other Federal agencies, State agencies, and partners to collect and analyze natural resource, environmental, economic, and social data. As new information becomes available, it is used to conduct analyses of policy options and strategies for improving wilderness protection by the agencies that manage wilderness. This assessment will be conducted once every 10 years with subsequent assessments providing the information to evaluate trends over time.

Specific programs we will coordinate with include the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service, USFWS Natural Resource Program Center, USGS National Gap Analysis Program, NPS Social Science Program, BLM National Conservation Lands, and USFS Eastern and Western Threat Assessment Centers. In addition we will work with scientists from universities and conservation organizations like The Wilderness Society and the Nature Conservancy.

Assessment components include:

  • Ecosystem Representation
  • Water
  • Wildlife
  • Invasives
  • Climate change
  • Land Use change
  • Fire
  • Economic and Social Values & Benefits