Restoration Framework

Evaluating Ecological Interventions

Evaluating Ecological Interventions

Every year, the four agencies that manage wilderness—the BLM, FS, FWS, and NPS—receive hundreds of proposals from within and outside the agencies to implement actions that intervene in the ecological systems in designated wilderness and in areas that are not designated but managed by policy to preserve their wilderness character. The combination of climate change with other landscape stressors is driving ecological intervention to be one of the single most important, challenging, and potentially litigious wilderness stewardship issues because decisions need to incorporate diverse legal, scientific and ethical considerations. Agencies charged with managing wilderness need transparent, defensible criteria to evaluate proposed ecological intervention activities within the NWPS. Current law and policies do not provide explicit support for decision-making, and management decisions may reflect views based on varying philosophical, cultural, and ethical beliefs about the fundamental values of wilderness.

Leopold Institute scientists Beth Hahn and Peter Landres have been working with NWPS managers to develop an early project planning support tool to be used in the Minimum Requirements Analysis/Minimum Requirements Decision Guide process ( to evaluate whether a proposal for ecological intervention in wilderness contains the sufficient and necessary information to be fully considered. In 2014, we hosted an interagency workshop and developed a draft support tool that reviews law, policy, ecological and other scientific information, and ethics. This draft support tool was extensively pilot tested in 2015, is out for broad interagency review in 2016, and we are now working to develop this into formal publications.

A summary of this effort, along with a description of all the pilot tests, can be found here: Evaluation Framework for Proposed Ecological Intervention and Restoration in Wilderness

Evaluation Framework for Proposed Ecological Intervention and Restoration in Wilderness

See the following publication links for more information:

2001. Naturalness and wildness: the dilemma and irony of ecological restoration in wilderness.
2004. Managing the wild in designated wilderness.
2010. Let it be: a hands-off approach to preserving wildness in protected areas.
2016. Wilderness in the 21st century: A framework for testing assumptions about ecological intervention in wilderness using a case study of fire ecology in the Rocky Mountains.