Character Mapping

Mapping Wilderness Character Helps Achieve Wilderness Goals

The Leopold Institute has spent the past six years developing a set of standardized methods to map threats to wilderness character for designated and proposed wilderness areas. These maps provide a measurement baseline from which future monitoring can show spatial trends and changes in wilderness character over time, and allow the four agencies managing wilderness to analyze the potential impacts of different management actions on wilderness character. Wilderness character maps can also improve wilderness planning and have supplemented the development of new wilderness stewardship plans for various wilderness areas in the NWPS. For example, the recently implemented Death Valley Wilderness and Backcountry Stewardship Plan, which utilized wilderness character maps, received the following praise from the National Parks Conservation Association:

The plan is unique in that the Park has implemented a process for assessing, monitoring, and seeking to protect or improve wilderness character. This is the first plan I have seen that actively measures wilderness character and seeks to improve it – the results were well worth the wait.

This mapping approach can also improve internal staff communication about wilderness and wilderness character, and improve external communication between the agencies and the public on wilderness planning, and management to preserve wilderness character.

To date the Institute has developed wilderness character maps for:

  • Death Valley National Park
  • Olympic National Park
  • Denali National Park
  • Saguaro National Park
  • Sequoia Kings Canyon National Park
  • Gates of the Arctic National Park
  • Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

Carver, Steve; Tricker, James; Landres, Peter. 2013. Keeping it wild: Mapping wilderness character in the United States. Journal of Environmental Management, 131 (2013) 239-255. doi:10.1016/j.jenvman.2013.08.046