Bob contributed significantly to wilderness as an empirical scientist, as the author of seminal papers about wilderness management and as leader of the first research project devoted exclusively to wilderness science. Bob’s contributions as an empirical scientist—though not numerous—were innovative and influential.
As the first scientist to conduct significant empirical research in wilderness, Bob’s foundational contributions to knowledge influenced hundreds of subsequent studies—the topics pursued, the questions asked, the sampling methods used and the interpretations made. He wrote many of the earliest papers about wilderness use and how to accurately measure it, wilderness visitors, carrying capacity and wilderness management generally and was co-author of the first two editions of the textbook, Wilderness Management. His studies of visitors to the Bob Marshall Wilderness were the first to assess changes over time.
Equally important were his contributions as an administrator, making decisions about personnel and research priorities that leveraged modest funding into rapid development and transfer of knowledge about wilderness management. He hired other federal wilderness scientists—Dave Lime, George Stankey, David Cole and Alan Watson and his program funded the research of many wilderness scientists in academia, such as Sid Frissell, Bob Ream, Steve McCool, Larry Merriam and Perry Brown.
In 2011, at a workshop to review and assess progress in understanding and managing wilderness visitor experiences—some 50 years after he began studying wilderness visitors--Bob was honored with a plaque that read “Presented to Bob Lucas, Pioneering Wilderness Scientist. Your work on wilderness visitors serves as a foundation and inspiration for generations to come.”