The 50th anniversary of The Wilderness Act just passed in 2014. In celebration of this anniversary we take the opportunity to capture, document and celebrate the history of wilderness science thru interviews with some of the founders of wilderness science. Like the idea of wilderness and the designation of wilderness areas, wilderness science began in the United States. As a systematic science, it was largely pioneered by Forest Service Research, beginning around 1960, although important early contributions were made by other land managing agencies and academicians. This early work has influenced later scientists working on wilderness and other protected areas around the world. This history and the foresight to support wilderness science has never been adequately celebrated or documented in a scholarly manner. It should be.

Some of the early wilderness scientists have already passed on, but most are still alive. Thus, it is timely to capture their recollections of the early years of wilderness science while they are still alive. With the creation of the Forest Service’s Wilderness Management research unit in Missoula, Montana, at the end of the 1960s, there is a richer documentation of wilderness science that needs to be explored, organized and presented. This needs to be woven into an accounting of early wilderness science conducted elsewhere.

David Cole and Steven McCool are interviewing pioneering wilderness scientists, particular those active prior to 1970. We have interviews posted here from Sid Frissell, David Lime and Dave Parsons. Other interviewees might include Bob Lucas, George Stankey and others. Finally, the work of related wilderness scientists will also be documented and synthesized (e.g. Jan van Wagtendonk and Bud Heniselmann). The product from these interviews will be a history of the development of systematic wilderness science, from its origins until the time of the first wilderness science conference in Fort Collins, Colorado, in 1985. The emphasis will be on science intentionally done to improve wilderness stewardship. 

Audio Interviews & Transcripts