Values & Benefits

Society’s relationship with public lands influences how lands are managed. These relationships aren’t limited to wilderness visitors. Many benefits flow off-site from wilderness and are key to human well-being: clean water and air; protection in coastal areas from hurricanes, floods and winds; and crucial refuges for threatened plants and animals. Wilderness management agencies are charged with administering the Wilderness Act and subsequent legislation, while balancing that with handling the relationship between the public and lands protected as wilderness.

Most social science information used by wilderness managers has focused on threats to recreation. We’re now developing measures that evaluate how well public land managers are doing in their stewardship responsibilities--by measuring things like trust and how society values wilderness protection. Understanding the relationships between the public and wilderness is especially relevant for those who use wilderness for subsistence purposes or other traditional activities that preceded designation as wilderness. There is a need to better understand how management actions and off site influences affect these relationships and influence reactions to management actions.

Some specific issues that will be studied include:

  • Tradeoffs among providing stakeholders various ecosystem services benefits.
  • Understanding how traditional knowledge can better assist managers in understanding the history of human and landscape interactions and local response to stewardship.
  • Understanding the role of wilderness in human well-being and how this has changed since 1964.