International Journal of Wilderness | August 2021 | Volume 27, Number 2

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Journal of Wilderness August 2021 | Volume 27, Number 2 |

In This Issue of Preserving Wildness | Conservation Indicators for Russia Wilderness Shared Stewardship | A Pandemic-Inspired Research Agenda

International Journal of Wilderness August 2021 Volume 27, Number 2 FEATURES



Book Reviews

Ambition: The Power of a Big Idea… and Sticking to it.


Wildness: Relations of People and Place




SOUL OF THE WILDERNESS Preserving the Wildness of Wilderness in the Anthropocene 12 ROGER KAYE

STEWARDSHIP he Evolution of Management Science to T Inform Carrying Capacity of Overnight Visitor Use in the Yosemite Wilderness

On the Cover Polar Bear resting on an iceberg.



SCIENCE & RESEARCH Crowding Perceptions at Wilderness Areas on Mount Baker, Washington and Mount Hood, Oregon 42 ROBERT C. BURNS, MARY E. ALLEN, and TERI L. CHUPRINKO

COMMUNICATION & EDUCATION Wilderness Shared Stewardship: Exploring Partnerships Through Empathy



Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

A Pandemic Inspired Research Agenda on the Wilderness Experience 72 HOWARD SMITH, RICHARD DISCENZA, and ROBERT DVORAK

INTERNATIONAL PERSPECTIVES Wilderness as Nature Conservation Indicators for Regional Policy Making in Russia 88 VLADIMIR BOCHARNIKOV and EVSEY KOSMAN

DISCLAIMER The Soul of the Wilderness column and all invited and featured articles in IJW, are a forum for controversial, inspiring, or especially informative articles to renew thinking and dialogue among our readers. The views expressed in these articles are those of the authors. IJW neither endorses nor rejects them, but invites comments from our readers.—Chad P. Dawson , IJW Editor-in-Chief Emeritus

Visit WWW.IJW.ORG to view additional content only available online. 2

International Journal of Wilderness | April 2021 | Volume 27, Number 1


Journal of Wilderness

The International Journal of Wilderness links wilderness professionals, scientists, educators, environmentalists, and interested citizens worldwide with a forum for reporting and discussing wilderness ideas and events; inspirational ideas; planning, management, and allocation strategies; education; and research and policy aspects of wilderness stewardship.

EDITORIAL BOARD H. Ken Cordell, Southern Research Station, U.S. Forest Service, Athens, Ga., USA Lisa Ronald, University of Montana, Missoula, Mont., USA Vance G. Martin, WILD Foundation, Boulder, Colo., USA Christopher Armatas, Aldo Leopold Wilderness Research Institute, Missoula, Mont., USA Stephen Carver, Wildland Research Institute, School of Geography, University of Leeds, UK

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Robert Dvorak, Central Michigan University, Mount Pleasant, Mich., USA

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF EMERITUS Chad P. Dawson, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Syracuse, N.Y., USA

ASSOCIATE EDITORS Greg Aplet, The Wilderness Society, Denver, Colo.; James Barborak, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colo.; Matthew T. J. Brownlee, Clemson University, Clemson, S.C.; David Cole, Aldo Leopold Wilderness Research Institute, Missoula, Mont.; John Daigle, University of Maine, Orono, Maine; Jessica Fefer, Kansas State University; Joseph Flood, Minnesota State University, Mankato, Minn.; David A. Graefe, Lock Haven University, Lock Haven, Penn.; Gary Green, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia; Kari Gunderson, University of Montana, Missoula, Mont.; Jeffrey Hallo, Clemson University, Clemson, S.C.; Yu-Fai Leung, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, N.C.; Jeffrey Marion, Virginia Polytechnic Institute, Blacksburg, Virg.; Zach Miller, Utah State University, Logan, Utah; Christopher Monz, Utah State University, Logan, Utah; Andrew Muir, Wilderness Foundation Eastern Cape, South Africa; Rebecca Oreskes, U.S. Forest Service (retired), Gorham, N.H., USA; David Ostergren, Goshen College, Wolf Lake, Indiana; John Peden, Georgia Southern University, Statesboro, Georgia; Elizabeth E. Perry, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Mich.; Peter Pettengill, St. Lawrence University, Canton, N.Y.; Kevin Proescholdt, Wilderness Watch, Minneapolis, Minn.; William L. Rice, University of Montana, Missoula, Mont.; Keith Russell, Western Washington University, Bellingham, Wash.; Rudy Schuster, USGS, Fort Collins, Colo.; Ryan L. Sharp, Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas; B.Derrick Taff, Penn State University, State College, Penn.; Jennifer Thomsen, University of Montana, Missoula, Mont.; Tina Tin, Consultant, Challes-les-Eaux, France; Jeremy Wimpey, Applied Trails Research, Mount Pleasant, Mich.; Franco Zunino, Associazione Italiana per la Wilderness, Murialdo, Italy.

International Journal of Wilderness (IJW) publishes three issues per year (April, August, and December). IJW is a not-for-profit publication.

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SPONSORING ORGANIZATIONS Aldo Leopold Wilderness Research Institute • Central Michigan University, Department of Recreation, Parks and Leisure Services Administration SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry • WILD Foundation • USDA Forest Service • USDI Bureau of Land Management USDI Fish and Wildlife Service • USDI National Park Service • Wilderness Foundation (South Africa) • Wilderness Foundation Global • Wilderness Leadership School (South Africa) University of Montana, School of Forestry and Conservation; and, the Wilderness Institute


International Journal of Wilderness | August 2021 | Volume 27, Number 2

Photo credit © Bill Oxford on Unsplash August 2021 | Volume 27, Number 2 | International Journal of Wilderness



Ambition: The Power of a Big Idea…and Sticking to it by VANCE MARTIN It was the final day of WILD9 in Mérida, Mexico 2009 and we were closing a highly successful 9th World Wilderness Congress. Suddenly we received the news that our featured closer, a high-profile conservation leader who had promised a substantive announcement to close the Congress, had to cancel and offered no replacement. Harvey Locke and I were in the Congress cafeteria as 1,800 delegates began to stream into the nearby plenary hall for the closing session. We quickly conferred, considered options, and decided to make our own, and unexpected, announcement. Months before, Harvey had raised with me the proposition that protected area targets needed to be much more ambitious and scientifically-based than the politically-correct targets the conservation establishment was using (at that time still 10% terrestrial and 0% marine, and soon to be 17% terrestrial and 10% marine). We both knew that the best conservation science and traditional knowledge insisted that approximately half of the earth’s lands and seas needed to be protected and high-functioning if we were to assure continuation of the ecological services that support all life on earth. In addition to the science, and as our indigenous elders tell us, relationship is also important. We need a reciprocal relationship with wild nature that gives us everything. This was amply illustrated a few years before at the 8th World Wilderness in Alaska in 2005 when Herb Norwegian, Grand Chief of the First Nations Dehcho in Canada, called for all traditional peoples to advocate for protection of at least half of their territories (Cajune, Martin, and Tanner 2008).


International Journal of Wilderness | August 2021 | Volume 27, Number 2

Vance Martin

Harvey agreed to extemporaneously announce,

to integrate work on these two existential threats.

and justify, the aspirational vision to protect and

So, as part of the planning for WILD9, Harvey and

interconnect half the Earth’s lands and seas.

Brendan Mackey produced The Nature of Climate

Nature Needs Half ( was

(Locke and Mackey 2009), one of the first formal

born. It was big, unexpected, and new. It was also

calls for why ambitious (and scientifically-based)

designed differently, as an “open architecture,

protection targets for biodiversity needed to be

movement-style initiative with no proprietary

integrated with climate goals. Such a proposition

ownership, just a steering committee to maintain

was significant and way ahead of establishment

standards. We were committed to the announce-

conservation because at that time the climate

ment yet a bit apprehensive, but the delegates

movement had captured the general environ-

were ready. It had been an ambitious Congress

mental movement. This made climate the priority

with many practical outcomes and calls to action,

of the institutional environmental movement, with

and this vison was a fitting send-off. Kenton Miller,

biodiversity conservation the neglected cousin.

former Director-General of the IUCN, and father

Climate was all about energy and emissions, and

of the original target of 10% protected terrestrial,

what are now called nature-based solutions were

asserted his approval from the floor. The great

considered quaint and old-school.

marine explorer and scientist, Sylvia Earle, imme-

Fast-forward thru the next ten years. IJW came

diately came up to me as I left the platform and

out with the first mainstream paper (Sylvén 2011)

said she had “an issue” with our announcement. I

specifically devoted to and explaining the HALF

gulped and asked her to explain. “It’s not enough,”

concept. The NNH team persisted, yet, while

she said. Relieved, I hugged her.

many scientists agreed, few others (especially the

But, in general, the trouble started. We had met-

big NGOs) would accept the obviously critical and

aphorically thrown the visionary cat amongst the

important need for ambitious protected area tar-

conservation-establishment pigeons. The feathers

gets that would also be wedded to climate goals.

flew! We received emails from conservation pro-

Continuing our focus on this, we again made it

fessionals in institutions and NGOs asserting that

part of the planning for the 10th World Wilderness

such a target was impossible ecologically and/or

Congress (WILD10 in Spain, 2013), and the Parks

politically. One such message from a prominent

journal agreed to publish a comprehensive ratio-

institutional figure even asserted that although the

nale for the HALF proposition (Locke 2013).

target may be scientifically correct, “we cannot

The tide began to strongly turn after Professor

insist for it because we will be laughed at!”

Ed Wilson published Half Earth in 2016, primarily

Integral to this call to “protect half” was that

a biodiversity-based call for HALF, and the weight

biodiversity and climate goals needed to be

of his name and scientific reputation provided a

considered together, not separately. The Rio Earth

doorway to HALF for use by the latecomers. Most

Summit (1992) created a convention to deal with

professionals began to understand that the HALF

each issue. However, over time, these conven-

concept specifically responded to both mas-

tions drifted apart and became distinct agendas.

sively accelerating species loss and to climate

They needed to be pulled together, therefore one

disruptions. Finally, “ambition” began to assume

aspect of WILD9 planning was to raise for the first

a place at the global conservation table. The

time on a global conservation platform the need

NNH network expanded and the Wyss Campaign

August 2021 | Volume 27, Number 2 | International Journal of Wilderness


for Nature ( came out with the “30% by 2030” initiative. Soon, many in that movement began to recognize that “30 by 30” was a milestone on the way to HALF. The scientific underpinnings came thick and fast, with the stalwart Dr. Reed Noss publishing original research and the IUCN Task Force on “Beyond the Aichi Targets” (referring to the Convention on Biodiversity) produced the most extensive survey ever conducted of area-based conservation targets (Woodley et al 2019). The pace of change is still accelerating…and it needs to. In September 2020, the UN Summit on Biodiversity produced the Leader’s Pledge for Nature ( in which 84 nations agreed to a “united signal to step up global ambition and encourage others to match their collective ambition for nature, climate and people…” In early 2021 a “High Ambition Coalition” (www. of 60 governments was created that recognized the need for both significantly increased ambition to protect nature and to unite biodiversity and climate solutions. In May 2021, the 12 biggest global environmental institutions were all represented in one paper, A Nature-Positive World: The Global Goal for Nature (Locke et al 2021), in which was stated: “In terms of spatial conservation, there is widespread scientific support for the idea of protecting and conserving at least half the world to meet biodiversity and ecosystem services objectives or combined biodiversity and carbon objectives.” In addition to the #1 priority being to protect the remaining wild nature as the most cost-efficient and effective way to address species loss and climate breakdown (and help avert future pandemics), the need for massive restoration is now also front and center. For example, and additionally in 2021, we saw the launch of the UN DECADE on Ecological Restoration(; the rebranding of a major NGO, Global Wildlife Conservation, to Re:wild (, (with a collaborative conservation strategy championed by a major cadre of global social-influencers headed by Leonardo DiCaprio); and, as a result of the planning for WILD11, the first Global Rewilding Alliance (, the motto of which is “Protect, Restore, Rewild”. I relate this story because it illustrates three essential and instructive lessons, what I call “essential powers”, for those of us whose work is wedded to protecting and restoring wild nature for the good of all life on earth. First, the power of persistence. Change is not easy. It needs to overcome the entropy and exclusionary attitude too-often characteristic of institutional thinking and agendas. Hang in there! Second, the power of truth. Of course, truth is always important but when we consider today the rapidly destabilizing planet we created; we have no time for anything except truth. And third, the power of relationship. We are all in this together, so the synergy of right relationship between people, and between people and nature, is the most effective way to change course. A failed relationship with nature is not an option! In the process of humankind evolving and developing our necessary well-being and our economy, we also created a dilemma for ourselves. Our planet is seriously trashed and headed toward ecological tipping points that are as catastrophic as they are systemic and unpredictable. We need to change now, and big time. The era of debate defer, and delay is over. The need for ambition is now. We need to step up. We need to be powerful. Empowerment, through information, strategy, and vision, was one of the core reasons we founded the IJW in 1995. This issue, Volume 27, number 2, continues in that tradition and expands what is now


International Journal of Wilderness | August 2021 | Volume 27, Number 2

the world’s largest, most freely available archive on global wilderness and wildland-related subjects. In this issue, Roger Kaye discusses preserving wildness in the Anthropocene. Chris Armatas and others explore shared stewardship and partnerships through empathy. Howard Smith, Richard Discenza, and Robert Dvorak present a pandemic inspired research agenda. And Vladimir Bocharnikov and Evsey Kosman consider indicators for regional policy making in Russia,

VANCE MARTIN is a founding associate editor of IJW, president of the WILD Foundation (USA) and director of Wilderness Foundation Global (South Africa); email:

References Cajune, J. V. G. Martin, and T. Terry. 2008. Protecting wild nature on native lands: Case studies by Native peoples from around the world. Volume 1. The Wild Foundation. Retrieved from Locke, H. 2013. Nature needs half: a necessary and hopeful new agenda for protected aeras. PARKS 19(2): 13-22. Locke, H. and Mackey, B. 2009. The nature of climate change: Reunite international climate change mitigation efforts with biodiversity conservation and wilderness projection. International Journal of Wilderness 15(2): 7-13, 40. Locke. H, J. Rockström, P. Bakker……P. Zurita. 2001. A nature-positive world: the global goal for nature. Retrieved from Sylven, M. 2011. Nature needs half: a new spatial perspective for a health planet. International Journal of Wilderness 17(3): 9-11, 16. Woodley, S. H. Locke, D. Laffoley, K. MacKinnon, T. Sandwidth, and J. Smart. 2019. A review of evidence for areabased conservation targets for the post-2020 global biodiversity framework. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved from

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International Journal of Wilderness | August 2021 | Volume 27, Number 2

Bergen, Norway. Photo credit © Ingrid Martinussen on Unsplash August 2021 | Volume 27, Number 2 | International Journal of Wilderness



Preserving the Wildness of Wilderness in the Anthropocene by ROGER KAYE

Wildness: What is this evocative and elusive, primal and unquantifiable quality of Wilderness? Why is it so threatened in the non-analogue future we face? Why and how should we perpetuate it? We begin with the root word that wildness shares with Wilderness: will, referring to an entity’s being self-willed. But while Wilderness is a place, wildness is a condition wherein the processes of an area’s genesis are allowed to shape its future, free from human willfulness, utility, or design. Wildness is thus defined as “The state of a landscape characterized by its freedom from the human intent to alter, control, or manipulate its components and its ecological and evolutionary processes.” (Kaye 2012) Its being “free from human intent” is important, for two reasons. First, it reminds us that wildness also has an inter-relational dimension. It’s a way of relating to the land, a relationship of respect for, restraint toward, and deference to these processes. Second, it differentiates wild from natural, which dictionaries generally define as “not shaped by or substantially changed by human activities.” Or if you prefer a more, management-focused definition, the US interagency Wilderness Monitoring Protocol (Landres et al. 2015) defines natural as where “ecological systems are substantially free from the effects of modern civilization . . . where the primary goal is to allow ecological systems to evolve and change freely without human influence.” 12

International Journal of Wilderness | August 2021 | Volume 27, Number 2

Roger Kaye

“By definition, wildness is something—perhaps the only thing—we can never own or control. Thus, the perpetuation of wildness releases Nature from being ours to being its own.”

But even now, in the early Anthropocene,

In a major study of interventions across the

there is no such place. Nowhere is free from

National Wilderness Preservation System

our effects or unaffected by human influence.

(NWPS) Lucy Lieberman (2017) found that

Our species is changing the atmosphere,

between 2011 and 2015, 37% of wilderness

hydrosphere, lithosphere, cryosphere, and

units had already conducted interven-

biosphere—in fact, all spheres of Earth system

tions. Many units had intervened multiple

function. From ocean depths to the strato-

times. Another study conclusion was that

sphere, our footprint is everywhere, expanding

“Overwhelmingly, managers felt active manip-

and accelerating. We don’t like to admit it, but

ulations were likely to increase in the future.”

increasingly, this is becoming a post-natural

George Nickas, (2021) the executive director


of Wilderness Watch, says that “as funding for

So here is the problem: While the Wilderness

climate-related mitigation increases, the mis-

Act places the untrammeled, wild condition at

guided pressure to intervene and domesticate

the center of its definition of Wilderness, it also

these wild landscapes also increases.”

specifies that Wilderness is to be “protected

All interventions are well-intended. The

and managed so as to preserve its natural

impulse to resist change, to hang on to what

conditions.” How might “natural conditions,” (i.e.

we have, is understandable. But we must

historic or current wildlife and plant species,

remember that every intervention, however

habitats, ecosystems, and view sheds) be

important the resources or uses it seeks to

preserved in the changing future we face?

perpetuate, diminishes an area’s wildness,

The response has been to employ ecological interventions, that is, manipulations and

diminishes its freedom to adapt and evolve as it will.

restoration efforts to resist, direct, or reverse

So, the central question as I see it is: Should

change. The list of interventions being imple-

we strive to maintain natural conditions, that

mented or proposed is long: manipulation of

is, the products of evolutionary creativity at

the hydrological system using water impound-

our point in time, or should we perpetuate that

ments, dikes, and dams; providing artificial

creative process itself, wildness?

water sources, (i.e. guzzlers) for desert wildlife;

This is now recognized as the “dilemma of

using prescribed fire or fire suppression;

wilderness stewardship.” It is compounded by

planting green-house raised, disease resistant,

the fact that the wilderness decision making

warm temperature adapted plants; introducing

process the US federal land agencies use, the

or assisting the migration of wildlife and plants;

Minimum Requirements Analysis (MRA) and

applying herbicides; and the mechanical

its supplement for evaluating proposals for

removal of vegetation. Then on the horizon are

ecological interventions, tend to facilitate the

emerging (and scary) technologies such as

agencies “action bias” toward intervention. As

synthetic biology and powerful new genetic

Lieberman (2017) states, “The unequal pres-

engineering tools. And all have potential unin-

sures managers face to preserve the natural

tended consequences.

quality . . . may threaten the few remaining August 2021 | Volume 27, Number 2 | International Journal of Wilderness


wild places in the NWPS.” It is threatening

We would accept, for example, that the popu-

wild areas, Nickas (2021) emphasizes. “The

lations of some preferred species will decline

agencies’ MRA process pits the values of

and be replaced by others more suited to the

Wilderness against each other, allowing man-

changing conditions. Changes in composition

agers to ignore its essence, which is wildness.”

and structure of the systems would not be

Exacerbating the problem is that with our

resisted but become part of what may eventu-

current case-by-case, patchwork decision-

ally become novel ecosystems. Our humble

making process, one decision to intervene

role would be to watch and learn as the

leads to another—it’s a decision creep of

ecosystems transition as they will, however

incremental, but cumulative changes through

they will, and not according to our will.

which, without a conscious decision, a wilder-

But other wilderness areas, because of

ness can become more managed, less wild.

their unit purposes, location, or presence of

David Cole (2011) described the US federal

high-value species or conditions, will need to

agencies’ approach as “a recipe for a homog-

continue making intervention decisions based

enized wilderness system in which all values

upon the current MRA process. Nevertheless,

are compromised and none are optimized.”

where they are required or deemed neces-

Cole (2000) thus proposed an approach for

sary, all interventions in Wilderness should be

“allocating separate lands to each opposing

limited, targeted, and temporary.

value [naturalness and wildness] and embracing diversity.”

Which areas should be Evolutionary Heritage Lands? Hard decisions and tradeoffs

I have reluctantly and sadly concluded that

will need to be made, informed by science

if we are to perpetuate some truly wild areas

but made in the social and political arenas.

within the NWPS, we must develop such a

Research in the NWPS will need to be

two-tiered wilderness system. The framers of

refocused some to address the questions of

the Wilderness Act were visionaries, certainly,

1) which areas can be practicably maintained

but they couldn’t have foreseen the changes

as Evolutionary Heritage Lands? and 2) in

and conflicts wrought by global-scale change.

which areas could we practicably intervene to

It is just not realistic to believe that all 111

maintain the desired natural conditions?

million acres of the NWPS will remain as

First though, we must address the agencies’

untrammeled as they had intended. They are

“action bias,” that is, their tendency for favor-

not now.

ing perpetuation of those natural conditions,

We will need to develop a procedure for

and thus supporting interventions. Most

identifying or designating some wilderness

importantly, we need to better understand

areas or portions thereof as hands-off, non-

and articulate the functions and values of

intervention wild areas. Call them Evolutionary

wildness and wild areas so that they can be

Heritage Lands. Within them, ecological sys-

more fairly considered when competing with

tems and their components would adapt and

the more tangible reasons for intervening and

evolve in response to global-scale change.

managing. So finally, let’s consider reasons


International Journal of Wilderness | August 2021 | Volume 27, Number 2

Figure 1 - Glacier Bay, Alaska. Photo by Rich Manalang on Unsplash

August 2021 | Volume 27, Number 2 | International Journal of Wilderness


for perpetuating wildness and establishing

dependence and interdependence with the

inviolate Evolutionary Heritage Lands.

larger community of life. As we move farther

Best recognized by the US federal land

into the terra-incognita of the Anthropocene,

agencies are the scientific functions of wild

changing the world and ourselves, they can

areas that Aldo Leopold first espoused. Wild

serve as anchor-points. Those who visit can

areas can serve as laboratories for under-

experience the sheer otherness of a place

standing how ecological systems function,

that is there for itself. So too, they can catch

transition, and respond to change when left

an atavistic, experiential glimpse of ancestral

alone. Thus one of the reasons that wilder-

ways of knowing and relating to the world.

ness movement leader Olaus Murie argued

And millions who will never visit can find

for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to be

satisfaction and inspiration in knowing and

preserved as “a little portion of our planet left

imagining that really wild places still exist.

alone” was that it would enable us to “see how

Remember, what is also kept alive in wildness

Nature proceeds with evolutionary processes.”

is something of ourselves.

But the greater value, the aesthetic, allure,

Yes, lip service is given to wildness, but little

and mystique of those special places set apart

is done to operationalize and perpetuate it.

for wildness lie in the meaning they come to

Perhaps that’s because wildness threatens

have, what they symbolize. As places wherein

managerial precepts. Perhaps too, it’s because

we recognize a non-anthropocentric reason

we lack the objectivity and humility to accept

for being (i.e., their intrinsic value), they come

that there is a resource on the landscape

to represent that part of us that still holds rev-

that we can’t count, weigh, or measure. Yes,

erence for something outside human utility. By

the unmanaged and unquantifiable nature

definition, wildness is something—perhaps the

of wildness is a problem for many, but that

only thing—we can never own or control. Thus,

nature is central to its essence, its intrigue, its

the perpetuation of wildness releases Nature


from being ours to being its own. This is the

And so too is the paradox that the intent

most genuine expression of environmental

to leave some areas self-willed must come

humility. It’s an encouraging demonstration

from human will, that to maintain them free of

and reminder of our capacity for restraint.

human purpose must be a human purpose.

Ultimately, wild areas serve as a gesture of respect for and deference to the autonomous creativity of unwilled processes that shaped— and connect—our species, all species, and all the Earth. As places set apart from human willfulness and hubris, Evolutionary Heritage Lands can

ROGER KAYE is the Alaska Wilderness Coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wilderness Service. This article is based on the author’s judgement, interpretation, and emphasis, and does not constitute a policy position of the author’s agency. email: roger_kaye@

enhance understanding of how these traits have distanced humankind from its sense of 16

International Journal of Wilderness | August 2021 | Volume 27, Number 2

Figure 2 -Photo by Tim Muangkeo on Unsplash

August 2021 | Volume 27, Number 2 | International Journal of Wilderness


References Cole, D. N. 2000. Soul of the wilderness: Natural, wild uncrowded, or free? International Journal of Wilderness 6(2): 5-8. -----. 2011. Planned diversity. International Journal of Wilderness 17(2): 9-14 Kaye, R. 2012. What future for wildness within a climate-changing National Wildlife Refuge System? International Journal of Wilderness 18(1): 15-20. Landres, P., C. Barns, S. Boutcher, T. Devine, P. Dratch, A. Lindholm, L., Merigliano, N. Roeper, E. Simpson. 2015. Keeping it wild2. Gen Tech. Rep RMRS-GTR-340, Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. Liberman, L. A. 2017. The Balancing Act: Ecological interventions and decision tradeoffs to preserve wilderness character. Graduate Student Theses, Dissertations, & Professional Papers, ScholarWorks at University of Montana. Nickas, G. 2021. Pers com.


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International Journal of Wilderness | August 2021 | Volume 27, Number 2

Sunset view of Clark Range from Horizon Ridge. Photo credit © Dong Fang. August 2021 | Volume 27, Number 2 | International Journal of Wilderness



The Evolution Of Management Science To Inform Carrying Capacity Of Overnight Visitor Use In The Yosemite Wilderness by JEFFREY JENKINS, JAN VAN WAGTENDONK, and MARK FINCHER

Exploration, whether physical or contemplative, and the freedom and solitude associated with being in the backcountry underlie high-quality wilderness dependent recreational experiences (Sax 1980). To avert overcrowding, mitigate biophysical

Jeffrey Jenkins

impacts, and ensure quality wilderness experiences, managers utilize a suite of management tools, including inventories and assessments of wilderness campsite and social conditions, to evaluate changes to use and condition over time. Managers may then make necessary changes to maintain wilderness character and avoid resource impairment. Yosemite National Park (hereafter the Park) has attempted

Jan Van Wagtendonk

to manage social and experiential impacts through travel zone capacities and a system of trailhead quotas linked to the zones (van Wagtendonk 1986, van Wagtendonk and Coho 1986). Between 1974 (when permit restrictions were first implemented) and 1979, wilderness use averaged 188,000 use nights annually in 1975, annual visitation for overnight wilderness use peaked with 218,890 use nights (van Wagtendonk 22

Mark Fincher International Journal of Wilderness | August 2021 | Volume 27, Number 2

1979, van Wagtendonk 2003b). Between 1980 and 2007 annual overnight visitation into the wilderness averaged 107,500 use nights per year. However, since 2008 this average has increased to 161,000 overnight visitor use nights per year (National Park Service 2020) (Figure 1). And there has been even more of a resurgence in visitation with the record peak of 1975 nearly reached again in 2016 with 216,989 overnight wilderness use nights during the National Park System Centennial. Although zoning and trailhead quotas have largely been able to mitigate biophysical and experiential impacts of overnight visitation, several factors have recently emerged which have led to the persistence of hotspots. The John Muir Trail (JMT) and Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) have risen in popularity, and this increase in overnight visitors entering from outside the Park’s permit system has posed challenges for managers associated with both interagency coordination of permits and compliance with permit regulations (Reigner and Wimpey 2020). And, the advent of geospatial technology and social media have likely further exacerbated hotspots of overuse as visitors can now more easily share their favorite locations with notes on amenities, and exchange tips about connecting trails and campsites. In this article, we will describe the visitor use management approaches originally developed that continue to be used in Yosemite National Park for the Yosemite Wilderness. We discuss the historic evolution of visitor use when the permit system was first conceived and when early computer systems were used to project use limits by trailhead and by zone to arrive at thresholds for overnight visitation. We also discuss the evaluation of the effectiveness of the program through visitor surveys, monitoring programs to assess campsite level impacts, and studies that have assessed changes in the spatial and temporal aspects of travel patterns. Lastly, we discuss the

Figure 1 - Annual visitor use nights in Yosemite Wilderness (van Wagtendonk 1981): 1972-1979, (National Park Service 2020): 1980-2019.

August 2021 | Volume 27, Number 2 | International Journal of Wilderness


relationship between increased use from outside the Park, hotspots, and campsite selection, and conclude with some brief considerations of future trends and potential management solutions.

Wilderness experience and carrying capacity Much of the early social science that informed wilderness carrying capacity was developed by biologists who studied biophysical impacts (Cole 2019). This included Lowell Sumner who reported on the degradation of mountain meadows caused by recreational pack stock use in Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks. His studies led him to what we now consider the first articulation of the recreational carrying capacity concept; he warned about exceeding the “recreational saturation point” in the parks (Sumner 1938). In 1959, Al Wagar was hired as the Forest Service’s first recreation researcher to study both the experiential and biophysical impacts of wilderness visitation. Among the ideas that came from his work were that carrying capacity was not an inherent, a priori property of a place or an absolute value, rather it depended on the needs and values of people and therefore could only be defined in relation to some management objective (Wagar 1964). That is, instead of a pre-ordained level set by fiat or a prescriptive policy mandate, recreational carrying capacity was seen as a conflict between the quality of experience and quantity of visitors, the discordance of which Wagar believed could be reduced through management actions such as zoning, engineering, persuasion, and intervention to sustain biotic communities (Cole 2001). The ultimate implication of these concepts has been to reconcile visitors’ opportunities for solitude and primitive and unconfined experiences with the collective travel patterns of users on a given day while attempting to limit resource impairment and experiential impacts particularly as the two coalesce to form hotspots of visitor overuse. That is, how can managers balance a high demand for popular destinations accessed from trailheads that are typically at full capacity and protect against recreational impacts? Paradoxically, for one to achieve the desired experiential condition of solitude one must necessarily know the more commonly trafficked areas and permanent points of visitation in order to avoid them. Herein lies the challenge of navigating a solitary wilderness experience amid relatively dense visitation: how to be “alone with others” (Lee 1977), if indeed that is what one is seeking from the outset.

From traditional wilderness users to growth in overnight backpacking Wilderness use in Yosemite before the mid-1960s was characterized by a relatively low number of visitors and a high level of impact per visitor. Stock use was the dominant mode of wilderness travel during these years. The first Sierra Club High Trip in the Sierra Nevada was undertaken in 1901; each “High Tripper” was allowed to bring a dunnage bag of up to 40 pounds of personal effects to be packed in by mule, including such items as musical instruments and tripod cameras (Turner 1993). These large parties also relied on heavy iron cooking equipment, among other “essentials”. The trips continued well into the 1940s; they were intended to build a constituency of “conservation warriors”, however, the level of amenities were nothing short of 24

International Journal of Wilderness | August 2021 | Volume 27, Number 2

luxurious, and with the large size of groups

Following a surge in wilderness visitation in

led to acute biophysical impacts to fragile

the late 1960s and early 1970s, park person-

alpine lakes and meadow systems (Cohen

nel started tracking use based on voluntary

1988). So too, were these trips impactful to the

campfire permits and then mandatory use

experience of other backcountry wilderness

permits. Wilderness permits were first used

users who were displeased upon coming

in the national forests and parks in the Sierra

into contact with the “horde”. The Sierra Club

Nevada of California in 1971 and began to be

went to great lengths to defend its methods

used compulsorily in the Park in 1972, though

of packing equipment and people in on trips

limits to use and permit enforcement would

and attributed the damage being done in

be introduced in subsequent years (Elsner

meadows to others (Sumner and Leonard

1972). Concurrently, Holmes et al. (1972) con-

1947), however, there were still direct impacts

ducted an inventory of 800 miles (1,287 km)

from grazing associated with stock use.

of trails and over 7,000 camping locations in

The impacts of stock use weren’t just limited

the Yosemite backcountry for human-caused

to Sierra Club outings. Materials and supplies

impacts (Fig. 2). Campsite surveyors found

packed in by stock were used to construct

hundreds of campsites around popular lakes,

structures associated with semi-permanent

trampled vegetation in heavily used areas,

wilderness camps, including backcountry outhouses and camp furniture (Ernst 1949; Sharsmith 1961; Briggs 1966). Traditional users took pride in the self-reliance of “woodcraft”; they established long term camps in wilderness areas by cutting branches to make lean-tos, pine bough beds, fireplaces, and other semi-permanent encampment features (Turner 2002). This form of wilderness recreation associated with long term camps where traditional, more primitive living skills were practiced was inherently more impactful than backpacking as it is practiced today with transient daily movement and the packing in and out of gear and food (Turner 2002). In backcountry areas nationwide, these long-term camps and the economic experience of recreational hunting and fishing associated with them were eventually seen as an unacceptable impact to

Figure 2 - Yosemite National Park Backcountry Campsites, 1972 – Compiled and drawn by Joseph E. Holmes from the Yosemite Backcountry Inventory – Summer 1972, Directed by Daniel O. Holmes (Subset of original extent with Cathedral Lakes at center).

wilderness character (Fincher 2012). August 2021 | Volume 27, Number 2 | International Journal of Wilderness


and eroded and multiple trails throughout the proposed wilderness. It was not uncommon to find more than 200 people concentrated around fragile alpine lakes and small subalpine valleys near water sources at one time (van Wagtendonk and Benedict 1980b). Guided by the results of the survey, Parmeter (1976) conducted studies of biophysical parameters such as vegetation, soil, water, and microclimate impacts. Experiments were also conducted to quantify the direct impacts of trampling and urine (Holmes 1979). These biophysical studies concluded that although impacts increased as use increased, the relationship between use and impacts was influenced by many other factors and that the determination of acceptable impacts was a subjective decision (van Wagtendonk 2003a). Social impact studies were conducted to determine the relationship between use levels and the wilderness experience. Lee (1977) and Absher and Lee (1981) interviewed visitors about their attitudes toward crowding, resource impacts, and satisfaction, and concluded that there was no correlation between avoidance behavior and perceived crowding, instead they found that human behavior and resource condition were determinants of satisfaction. These initial wilderness studies in tandem with travel pattern models would help to catalyze the management response over the succeeding years.

Developing a quota system and assessing permit effectiveness Modelling use levels and travel patterns The Wilderness Simulation Model (WSM) was a simulation program written by Heck and Webster (1973) that ran on a mainframe computer. Smith and Krutilla (1976) refined the model based on Stankey’s (1972) hypothesis that visitors’ satisfaction with a wilderness experience was inversely related to the number of encounters they had with members of other parties. While this early hypothesis is now thought to be an oversimplification, it nevertheless was a useful starting point. Fisher and Krutilla (1972) conceptualized this idea into a model that established the optimum level of use in a wilderness area to be the point at which the incremental benefit of an additional party is just offset by the decrease in the benefits of the parties encountered. Prototype testing of the WSM was conducted on the Spanish Peaks Primitive Area (Smith and Krutilla 1976) and the Adirondack Forest Reserve (Smith and Headly 1975). Subsequently, the model was enhanced by Resources for the Future under contract with the U.S. Forest Service (Shechter 1975). This new WSM model was applied to the Desolation Wilderness in California (Shechter and Lucas 1978) and the complex of wilderness areas surrounding Yosemite National Park (van Wagtendonk 1979). Simultaneous with the effort to apply the WSM to the Desolation Wilderness, scientists and managers at Yosemite began assembling the necessary information to run the WSM (van Wagtendonk 1979). Visitor data required to run the WSM included a mix of weekly, daily, and hourly distributions of use; party-size distributions; and mode of travel. For example, small parties on horseback were distinguished from large hiking parties. Area information included the trail segments and campsites in the network and the time it took parties of different sizes to hike or ride each 26

International Journal of Wilderness | August 2021 | Volume 27, Number 2

trail segment in each direction. A study was

and a reduction factor for ecological fragility

conducted in Yosemite to determine trail

based on vegetation (van Wagtendonk 1986).

travel times for parties on 1-mile (1.6 km) trail

Trailhead quotas have subsequently been

segments as input to the WSM (van Wagten-

reassessed and modified over the years to

donk and Benedict 1980a). Surveyors timed

arrive at the current trailhead quotas.

backpacking parties, day-hiking parties, and horse-riding parties to travel all the sample trail segments of different slopes and directions. Party size was not significant for all three types of parties, and slope-direction class was significant only for backpacking parties. In the WSM, the various routes that might be taken were enumerated along with their probability of being selected. The output from the WSM included numerous tables showing encounters by party type, location, trip length, and total use level across zones (van Wagtendonk 2003b). There are 55 trailheads with 695 miles (1,112 km) of trail and 375 camping areas identified for simulation in the Yosemite Wilderness (Fig. 3). Additionally, 46 trailheads feed 416 miles (666 km) of trail and 197 campsites on Forest Service wilderness areas adjacent to the Park (van Wagtendonk 2003b). These geographic parameters were used to arrive at the trail-

Figure 3 - Original trails, trailheads, and travel zones with adjoining national forest wilderness areas (van Wagtendonk and Coho, 1986).

head quotas, which were originally calculated in 1977 with the 20,000 permits issued in 1973. These permits were used because travel behavior that year was not yet limited and thus provided a baseline for unrestricted travel that maximized freedom of movement. For the four years before implementing trailhead quotas in Yosemite, wilderness use was rationed by travel-zone limits. The capacities of the original travel zones were derived from a social density factor, the acreage of the zone, the number of miles of trail in the zone, August 2021 | Volume 27, Number 2 | International Journal of Wilderness


Backcountry surveys and campsite monitoring to assess permit system effectiveness

Mineral King area of Sequoia National Park. To assess actual versus permitted overnight wilderness use and alterations to travel plans,

Permits, which include information on

uniformed personnel interviewed backpackers

group size, trailhead, and itinerary, among

exiting the four most popular trailheads in the

other data, can determine use and allow all

Yosemite Wilderness over a random selection

recorded routes to be simulated to determine

of four days during each of the first three

and update zone-based carrying capacities

weeks of August in 1976, 1977, and 1978 (van

rather than just a sample of possible routes

Wagtendonk and Benedict 1980b). Research-

(van Wagtendonk 2003b). However, there are

ers found 91.9 percent of those surveyed over

some problems with basing management

the three years had permits, accounting for

decisions solely on data from permits, and

94.7 of the party nights. Sixty-two percent of

thus a need to survey wilderness users exists

parties with permits made changes to their

to determine permit compliance and the valid-

trip, and they tended to shorten their trip both

ity of the system. That is, even though permits

in terms of time and distance. The overall

have been made readily available to visitors,

result was a decrease in time spent in outlying

some do not always obtain them, and parties

areas further away from trailheads as parties

that obtained permits can deviate from their

abandoned their itineraries to spend extra

anticipated trips. Additionally, not all permit

time in areas nearer to trailheads, thus con-

holders contain their trip within the Park. In the

centrating visitor nights and campsite impacts

1970s, eight percent of the use reported on

in zones closer to trailheads (van Wagtendonk

Yosemite’s permits traveled into Forest Ser-

and Benedict 1980b).

vice zones, while four percent of Yosemite’s

A rationing system should reduce crowd-

use originated from Forest Service permits.

ing by influencing the temporal and spatial

This challenge was dealt with by assign-

distribution of use. The use limits proved to

ing unique zone numbers to each agency’s

be effective in shifting use from peak summer

wilderness areas and exchanging permit data

months to earlier in the season (May and June)

at the end of the year (van Wagtendonk 1981).

and from heavily used travel zones without

Use limits set by analysis of permit informa-

reducing overall visitation (van Wagtendonk

tion were gaining favor as a useful data source

1981). Use of the four most popular trailheads

and the preferred management action to

went from 68 percent of total use in 1973 to

address wilderness hotspots for Park Service

57 percent of total use in 1983 as quotas went

wilderness programs (van Wagtendonk and

into effect and visitors utilized alternative

Parsons 1996). This included other early

trailheads (van Wagtendonk and Coho 1986).

work throughout the Sierra Nevada, such as

Managers were concerned that heavily used

that by Parsons et al. (1981) who hand-tallied

zones, usually a day’s hike from the trailheads

wilderness permits to derive quotas for nine

would act as bottlenecks, leaving more distant

camp areas reached by three trailheads in the

zones below capacity. To resolve bottlenecks,


International Journal of Wilderness | August 2021 | Volume 27, Number 2

bypass trailheads were designated with additional quotas to allow entrance by visitors planning to go beyond the heavily used zone. Another concern was that visitors might circumvent the system by choosing an alternate trailhead leading to the same zone as the trailhead that had been denied them. Records were kept of visitors’ first and second choice trailheads (van Wagtendonk and Coho 1986). Out of a sample of 490 parties, 60 percent chose to go to a different zone. Parties who chose a trailhead that led to the same zone made up 21 percent of the total, while an additional 18 percent opted to wait a day for their first choice. In the mid-1980s a comprehensive wilderness campsite survey was completed in Yosemite. The Wilderness Impacts Monitoring System (WIMS) recorded 5,547 campsites and 1,048 miles (1,687 km) of trail across the Yosemite Wilderness (Sydoriak 1986). WIMS used a slightly modified version of the system developed by Parsons and McLeod (1986) in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. WIMS measured eleven impact criteria: firewood availability, tree root exposure, visual obtrusiveness, vegetation density, vegetation composition, total campsite area, barren core, litter and duff, campsite developments, mutilations, and social trails. As a result, the first systematic wilderness campsite restoration efforts were started in the late 1980s. In the mid-1990s, wilderness rangers completed WIMS 2, a sample of 34 areas that encompassed 700 campsites in the wilderness (Boyers et al. 2000). During the WIMS 2 monitoring, numerous sites had no campsite structures remaining but still showed substantial vegetation damage. The WIMS 2 monitoring showed a large increase in the number of campsites that were barely discernible with small charcoal deposits with slight or loss of vegetation cover. The number of heavily developed campsites with large, heavily used rings, and litter and duff completely absent with extensive bare soil and vegetation loss were reduced in number. Sites that are removed most often don’t meet permit conditions; an assessment of campsites showed that out of 30 sites removed, 70 percent were either within 100 feet of the trail or 100 feet of water (Lawson and Newman 2001). WIMS 3 was conducted in the mid-2000s, monitoring the same sample areas as WIMS 2, and adding additional variables to try to better understand the effects of campsite restoration (Fincher 2008). For each of the 34 areas surveyed for WIMS 3, every campsite within the delineated area was assigned a condition class for structures, vegetation impacts, and distance to water. The effects of restoration efforts were obvious in that the overall number of campsites continued to decline, with a drop of 21 percent between WIMS 2 and WIMS 3. Distance to water was not recorded during the WIMS 2 surveys but was compared between WIMS and WIMS 3. There was a 58 percent reduction in sites within 25 feet of water during this timeframe and a 26 percent reduction in sites located 25 to 50 feet from water (Fincher 2008).

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Changing use patterns and the proliferation of hotspots Changing travel patterns The trailhead quota system and dispersed camping regulations were instituted to retain maximum visitor freedom while limiting use to capacities that protect ecological and social values. That is, to ensure carrying capacity not be exceeded, visitors must make trade-offs between conflicting desires. Surveys of Yosemite Wilderness visitors have confirmed that the quality of freedom is an important part of the experience for which visitors are willing to make a trade-off; visitors have been willing to tolerate increases in certain forms of regulation (e.g., trailhead quota restrictions) to obtain a high-quality recreation experience (e.g. solitude) (van Wagtendonk and Coho 1986; Newman et al. 2005). Additionally, overnight users that have greater familiarity with wilderness tend to be more strongly opposed to requiring camping at designated campsites, constructing more trails to reduce encounters, and implementing amenities like pit toilets and backcountry bear boxes to accommodate group activity (Hall and Irizarry 2014). Importantly, trade-offs exist across a spectrum of interrelated conditions and preference thresholds. For instance, the number of groups encountered per day is absolute but perceived differently relative to an individual’s tolerance for crowding (Newman, Marion, and Cahill 2001), and this may differ by experience level or other factors. Furthermore, one’s acceptance of regulations may be relative to the ease of obtaining a first-choice permit from a desired trailhead, which is subject to overall demand although relative to one’s familiarity and expectations with how to navigate the permit system. Spatial and temporal deviations from intended trip plans are a useful way to assess changing demand. Van Kirk et al. (2011, 2014) used 14,497 intended itineraries in the Yosemite Wilderness permit database to analyze and compare with actual itinerary information collected from surveys of 1,124 permit-holder respondents during the summer of 2010. The planned and actual trips were compared to evaluate trip deviation and reassess the relationship between zones and trailheads for potential redistribution of use (Van Kirk et al. 2011). Researchers developed an application to assess the travel route and trip duration for each party to dynamically simulate use according to a transition probability matrix. Each entry in the matrix was the conditional probability of a party spending its next night in each of the wilderness zones, given its current location. Temporal deviations arrived at from their intended itineraries comprised 36.2 percent of all parties, and 54.4 percent deviated spatially, while 25.2 percent of all parties deviated both spatially and temporally. These results are like those collected from 1976 to 1978 when 41.5 percent deviated temporally, 48.2 percent deviated spatially and 27.4 percent deviated both spatially and temporally (van Wagtendonk and Benedict, 1980b). The 2014 study also found a spatial deviation of groups from their planned first night’s zone and subsequent zones, indicating a path dependency once their trip was altered (Van Kirk et al. 2014). Predictors of deviation from intended itinerary included group deviation earlier in the season given snow displacement, larger


International Journal of Wilderness | August 2021 | Volume 27, Number 2

Figure 4 - Travel zones, trailheads, and trails (including PCT) of Yosemite Wilderness (Van Kirk et al. 2014).

groups less likely to deviate, and the largest

limits in 2016 using a geographic information

influence being intended trip length, for each

system. These revised zone limits are used for

extra day of intended trip length, trips tended

consideration of alternative travel scenarios

to be half a day shorter (Van Kirk et al. 2011).

and potential future adjustments to trailhead

As a result, several wilderness zones were

quotas. Additionally, a different method of

confirmed to be routinely overcapacity relative

“campable” area has been explored for the

to use limits (see Figure 4 for more recent

calculation of zone limits.

zone boundaries). A new vegetation map (Keeler-Wolf et al. 2012) and refined topographic and trails data made it possible to revise the adjusted zone August 2021 | Volume 27, Number 2 | International Journal of Wilderness


Inter-jurisdictional permit demand and overnight hotspots The PCT and JMT have received increased

different preferences of backpackers in these user groups and ultimately overnight visitors’ level of compliance with permit regulations

levels of use in recent years. For instance,

might contribute to their campsite selection at

PCT long-distance permits issued increased


from 6,027 in 2016 to 8,934 in 2019 (Reigner

Adverse conditions associated with wilder-

and Wimpey 2020). For a typical summer

ness hotspots include high population density,

day, the Park receives at least 300 to 500

social trails, bare soil, firewood depletion,

reservation requests, of which approximately

human waste, and fire ring proliferation.

80 to 90 percent are for those beginning the

Criteria associated with the attractiveness

JMT southbound from the Park. The Park

of hotspots include immediate proximity to

has responded with a quota of 45 users per

water, proximity to trailheads, proximity to

day exiting the Yosemite Wilderness on the

the PCT-JMT corridor, and being a popular

JMT. However, this management action has

destination or natural stop area. Notably many

resulted in permit requests being extended

of the hotspot areas in the Park today are the

further into earlier and later shoulder seasons

same areas as in the 1970s when campfire

as the demand for permits still exists. There

permit data were collected (see Figure 2), and

has also been an increase in northbound

this is a function of both the proximate fea-

travel along the JMT as hikers seek permits

tures at each site like scenic vistas and access

from other agencies for travel that begins

to water, as well as their location within the

outside of the Park at other Forest Service

broader trail network where travel time, topog-

trailheads and ultimately terminates in the

raphy, mileage, and ability level facilitates


similar patterns of movement between sites.

Increased use of the JMT and overlapping

One caveat to this is that some travel zones

portion of the PCT corridor, regardless of

closer to trailheads are more in demand today

direction, has thus contributed to an increase

than they were in the 1970s, which either

in the overall number of overnight backpack-

indicates a preference for shorter travel or use

ers traveling through the Yosemite Wilderness,

of these zones and the hotspots they contain

which has exacerbated hotspots of overuse.

as first night “stepping stones” to subsequently

Furthermore, visitors who come from outside

arrive at popular destinations in zones already

the Park with permits from other land units

reserved to capacity (Van Kirk et al. 2014).

might have different expectations and behav-

Aside from the preference for shorter trip

iors than what permit regulations in Yosemite

lengths as well as technical innovations to

call for or they may simply be ignorant of the

gear that have made it lighter and more

permit regulations altogether, which tend to

effective, perhaps the biggest change to

be more restrictive than in other land units in

wilderness use over the last several decades

the Sierra Nevada (e.g., use of bear canisters,

has been the increased use of geolocational

campfire restrictions, prohibition of dogs). The

devices for navigation, including dedicated


International Journal of Wilderness | August 2021 | Volume 27, Number 2

Figure 5 - Tilden Lake in the Yosemite Wilderness. Photo by Mark Fincher.

GPS devices to simply an app on a phone (Martin 2017). While these technologies provide handy assistance to augment knowledge they are by no means a substitute for experience, especially with safety considerations (Martin and Pope 2012), nor do they always align with what is allowed by permit (e.g., an app or blog may suggest a camping location too near water or not far enough from the trailhead). Navigation technology along with the increased use of online informationsharing platforms (e.g., social media, trip maps, blogs) contribute to individual and group decision processes about permit, route, campsite, and overall trip selection, and are thus an important variable when considering both experiential and physical impacts to wilderness character (Carlson et al. 2016). Visitors choose a campsite for many reasons, including, but not limited to vistas, a level sleeping area, amount of sun or protection from wind, privacy from other campers or proximity to the trail, seasonal factors like avoidance of snow cover and mosquitoes, and amenities like natural furniture and fire rings from previous use that may accommodate groups (Fincher 2008). Because of these different preferences, and in order to avoid proliferation of new camp sites footprints with their resultant biophysical impacts, the number of desirable campsites in an area should be substantially greater than the maximum number of groups expected at peak use, and management focus must consider those factors that make a site desirable or undesirable for visitors. Therefore, reductions in use might be considered for areas where the number of groups greatly exceeds the number of acceptable, sustainable campsites.

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Conclusions Trends of overnight visitation in the Yosemite Wilderness are anticipated to continue if left unaddressed by management actions, including the aggregation around hotspots and the related concentration of biophysical and experiential impacts. Hotspots that are in zones closer to trailheads and those high demand locations that are accessible by multiple trailheads will proliferate. Some level of gaming the system will no doubt persist despite whatever use limits, permit regulations, and other management strategies are put into place, including first night zone and pass-through requirements. Also, the use of social media for information sharing and further reliance on navigational technologies will contribute to continued use of hotspots as visitors base their pre-travel and in-situ overnight locational decisions on known destinations where others have previously noted camping areas with vistas and nearby water sources, among other amenities. This is also the case for those entering the park along the PCT-JMT corridor, whose campsite selection strategies are planned by the distance between food supply restocks. And it will now likely be more common under a changing climate regime to see greater deviation from the current timing and location of permitted overnight use given increased variability in the magnitude and timing of previously expected seasonal temperature and precipitation trends (Marshall et al. 2018). It is already the case that high snowpack years and wildland fires with their associated air quality conditions alter wilderness travel patterns, place further restrictions on permit regulations, or lead to seasonal closures of some destinations altogether.

Given that social and environmental drivers of change will continue to contribute to management complexity of overnight visitor use, we might ask: does the existing trailhead quota system still deliver desired experiences for backpacker groups and at the same time protect wilderness character? Given that social and environmental drivers of change will continue to contribute to management complexity of overnight visitor use, we might ask: does the existing trailhead quota system still deliver desired experiences for backpacker groups and at the same time protect wilderness character? That is, what must be reassessed for the permit system to continue to function with the continued high demand and environmental variability expected in the foreseeable future? Several potential areas that the park should consider include implementing pass quotas to better control those visitors coming in from adjoining wilderness areas and conversely exit quotas, as well as better enforcement of first night zone quotas and potential greater use of passthrough requirements to distribute use (Fincher 2015). These potential solutions would address


International Journal of Wilderness | August 2021 | Volume 27, Number 2

Figure 6 - Falls Creek in the Yosemite Wilderness. Photo by Mark Fincher.

hotspots of overuse that result from external and internal travel pattern overlaps. Education and enforcement through permit regulations will also remain important regardless of total distribution of use to inform visitors and disincentivize deleterious behaviors. A replicable inventory of indicators from year-to-year will also remain important for the park to anticipate when thresholds impacts associated with use levels and travel overlap have been reached to avoid impairment. Key to this will be a mechanism for managers to adapt quota capacities to anticipated changes in resource conditions, though the challenge to all of this remains how to make this feasible given the expectations of visitors for reliable and understandable permit conditions, and perhaps most vexingly uncertain systemic environmental conditions, namely seasonal variability in the magnitude and timing of snowpack and wildland fire.

August 2021 | Volume 27, Number 2 | International Journal of Wilderness


Acknowledgements The lead author would like to thank Steve Martin and Jeremy Wimpey for their thoughtful feedback on earlier draft versions of this manuscript as well as Nathan Reigner for his earlier insights. Thanks also goes to the many National Park, Forest Service, and Pacific Crest Trail Association wilderness managers of the Sierra Nevada whose conversations have informed this review.

JEFFREY JENKINS is an Assistant Professor at University of California, Merced, Department of Management of Complex Systems; JAN VAN WAGTENDONK is Research Forester Emeritus, Yosemite National Park; email:jan_van_ MARK FINCHER is the Wilderness Specialist, Yosemite National Park;


International Journal of Wilderness | August 2021 | Volume 27, Number 2

References Absher, J. D., and R.G. Lee. 1981. Density as an incomplete cause of crowding in backcountry settings. Leisure Science 4(3): 231–248. Boyers, L., M. Fincher, and J.W. van Wagtendonk. 2000. Twenty-eight years of wilderness campsite monitoring in Yosemite National Park. In: Cole, D. et al. Wilderness Science in a Time of Change Conference-Volume 5: Wilderness Ecosystems, Threats, and Management; 1999 May 23–27; Missoula, MT. Proceedings RMRS-P-15-VOL-5. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. p. 105-109. Briggs, G.S. 1966. Yosemite National Park, A Report on Backcountry Conditions and Resources, with Management Recommendations. Yosemite National Park Research Library. 217 pages. Carlson, T., J. Shultis, and J. van Horn. 2016. The use of new technology in wilderness: emerging issues and need for policy and management [White paper]. Society for Wilderness Stewardship. Cohen, M. P. (1988). The history of the Sierra Club 1892-1970. Sierra Club, San Francisco. Cole, D. N. 2001. Visitor use density and wilderness experiences: A historical review of research. In Visitor Use Density and Wilderness Experience Proceedings (pp. 11–20). Proceedings RMRS-P-20. Fort Collins, CO: USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. Cole, D. N. 2019. Community and Fire Ecologists, Park Biologists, and Recreation Scientists: The Antecedents of Wilderness Science. International Journal of Wilderness 25(3): 52-71. Elsner, G.H. 1972. Wilderness management, a computerized system for summarizing permit information. USDA Forest Service General Technical Report PSW-2. 8 p. Ernst, E.F. 1949. The 1948 Saddle and Pack Stock Grazing Situation of Yosemite National Park. 77 p. Fincher, M. 2008. The Evolution of Campsite Impacts, Restoration, and Monitoring in the Yosemite Wilderness, 19722007 [White paper]. Yosemite National Park. ———. 2012. Humans apart from nature? Wilderness experience and the Wilderness Act. In: Cole, David N., Wilderness visitor experiences: Progress in research and management; 2011 April 4-7; Missoula, MT. RMRS-P-66. ———. 2015. Issue Statement: Capacity [White paper]. Yosemite National Park. Fisher, A. C., and J. V. Krutilla. 1972. Determination of optimal capacity of resource-based recreation facilities. Natural Resources Journal 12(3): 417–444. Hall, T., and S. Irizarry. 2014. 2013 Yosemite Wilderness visitor use study. Department of Conservation Social Sciences, University of Idaho. Report prepared for Yosemite National Park, May 2014. Heck, N. A., and D. B. Webster. 1973. Wilderness Area Simulation Model: User’s Manual. Washington, D.C.: IBM and Resources for the Future. N. T. I. S. Accession No. PB-233 364/9/INW. Holmes, D. O. 1979. Experiments on the effects of human urine and trampling on subalpine plants. In: Ittner, R; Potter, D. R.; Agee, J. K.; Anschell, S., eds. Recreational impact on wildlands. Conference proceedings; 1978 October 27–29; Seattle, WA. Proc. R-6-001. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service; U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service: 79–88. Holmes, D. O., S. Akeson, S.H. DeBenedetti, J.E. Holmes, M. Paine, A.Z. Parker, and T.F. Such. 1972. Yosemite backcountry inventory, summer 1972. Unpublished report on file at: U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Yosemite National Park, El Portal, CA. 2,295 p. Keeler-Wolf, T., P. E. Moore, E. T. Reyes, J. M. Menke, D. N. Johnson, and D. L. Karavidas. 2012. Yosemite National Park vegetation classification and mapping project report. National Park Service Natural Resources Technical Report NPS/YOSE/NRTR-2012/598. National Park Service, Natural Resource Stewardship and Science Directorate, Fort Collins, Colorado, USA. Lawson, S. R., and P. Newman. 2001. A spatial analysis of wilderness campsites in Lyell Canyon, Yosemite National Park. In: Kyle, Gerard, comp., ed. 2001. Proceedings of the 2000 Northeastern Recreation Research Symposium. Gen. Tech. Rep. NE-276. Newtown Square, PA: US Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northeastern Research Station. 245-248 (Vol. 276). Lee, R.G. 1977. Alone with others: The paradox of privacy in wilderness. Leisure Sciences 1(1): 3-20.

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Martin, S. 2017. Real and potential influences of information technology on outdoor recreation and wilderness experiences and management. Journal of Park and Recreation Administration 35(1): 98-101. Martin, S. R., and K. Pope. 2012. The influence of hand-held information and communication technology on visitor perceptions of risk and risk-related behavior. In: Cole, David N., comp. Wilderness visitor experiences: Progress in research and management; 2011 April 4-7; Missoula, MT. Proc. RMRS-P-66. Fort Collins, CO: US Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station 66, p. 119-126. Marshall, A., V. Butsic, and J. Harte. 2018. The Phenology of Wilderness Use: Backcountry Recreation in a Changing Climate. Weather, Climate, and Society 10(2): 209-223. National Park Service. 2020. National Park Service Visitor Use Statistics. Park Reports: Yosemite. https://irma.nps. gov/STATS/Reports/Park/YOSE (Accessed July 10, 2020). Newman, P., J. L. Marion, Jand K. Cahill. 2001. Integrating resource, social, and managerial indicators of quality into carrying capacity decision-making. The George Wright Forum 18(3): 28-40. Newman, P., R. Manning, D. Dennis, and W. McKonly. 2005. Informing Carrying Capacity Decision Making in Yosemite National Park, USA Using Stated Choice Modeling. Journal of Park & Recreation Administration 23(1). Parmeter, J.R. 1976. Ecological carrying capacity research: Yosemite National Park. 4 Vol. Available from: National Training Information Service, Springfield, VA 22161. PB270954AS. Parsons, D.J., and S.A. McLeod. 1980. Measuring impacts of wilderness use. Parks 5(3): 8-12. Parsons, D.J., T.J. Stohlgren, and P.A. Fodor. 1981 Establishing backcountry use quotas: an example from Mineral King, California. Environmental Management 5:335-40. Reigner, N., and J. Wimpey. 2020. Multi-jurisdictional collaborative management of the Pacific Crest, National Scenic, and John Muir Trails. International Journal of Wilderness 26(2): 36-47. Sax, J. L. 1980. Mountains without handrails: Reflections on the national parks. University of Michigan Press. Shechter, M. 1975. Simulation Model of Wilderness-Area Use: User’s Manual and Program Documentation. Washington, D.C.: Resources for the Future. N. T. I. S. Accession No. PB-251 635/9/INW. Shechter, M., and R. C. Lucas. 1978. Simulation of Recreational Use for Park and Wilderness Management. Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press. Sharsmith, C.W. 1961. Report on the Status, Changes and Comparative Ecology of Selected Backcountry Areas in Yosemite National Park that Receive Heavy Use. Unpublished Report. 120 p. Smith, V. K., and R. L. Headly. 1975. The use of computer simulation models in wilderness management: A case study of the Adirondack Forest Reserve. In S. Ladany, ed., Management Science Applications to Leisure Time. Amsterdam: North-Holland Publications. Smith, V. K., and J. V. Krutilla. 1976. Structure and properties of a wilderness travel simulator: an application to the Spanish Peaks Area. Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press. Stankey, G. H. 1972. A strategy for the definition and management of wilderness quality. In J. V. Krutilla, ed., Natural Environments: Studies in Theoretical and Applied Analysis. Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press, 88–114. Sumner, L. 1938. Losing the Wilderness Which We Set Out to Preserve in p. 105 of Sellars, R. W. 1997. Preserving Nature in the National Parks: A History. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. Sumner, L., and Leonard, R. M. 1947. Protecting mountain meadows. Sierra Club Bulletin 32(5): 53-62. Sydoriak, C. A. 1986. Yosemite wilderness trail and campsite impact monitoring system. USDI, National. Park Service, Yosemite National. Park, CA. 25 p. Turner, T. 1993. Sierra Club: 100 years of protecting nature. Abradale Press. Turner, J. M. 2002. From Woodcraft to ‘Leave No Trace’: Wilderness, consumerism, and environmentalism in twentieth-century America. Environmental History 7(3): 462-484. Van Kirk, R., S. Martin, K. Ross, and M. Douglas. 2011. Simulation modeling and analysis of overnight visitor use of the Yosemite Wilderness. Final Report to the National Park Service, Yosemite National Park, El Portal, California ———. 2014. Computer simulation modeling to determine trailhead quotas for overnight wilderness use. Journal of Park and Recreation Management 32(3): 29-48.


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van Wagtendonk, J.W. 1979. A conceptual backcountry carrying capacity model. In First Conference on Scientific Research in National Parks. American Institute of Biological Sciences and the National Park Service, US Dept. of the Interior. Abstract p. I (Vol. 18). ———. 1981. The effect of use limits on backcountry visitation trends in Yosemite National Park. Leisure Sciences 4(3): 311–323. ———. 1986. The determination of carrying capacities for the Yosemite Wilderness. (INT-212), 456-461. ———. 2003a. Role of Science in Sustainable Management of Yosemite Wilderness. Seventh World Wilderness Congress Symposium; 2001 Nov. 2–8; Port Elizabeth, South Africa, 6. ———. 2003b. The Wilderness Simulation Model. A Historical Perspective International Journal of Wilderness 9(2): 9-13. van Wagtendonk, J.W., and J.M. Benedict. 1980a. Travel time variation on backcountry trails. Journal of Leisure Research 12(2): 99-106. ———. 1980b. Wilderness Permit Compliance and Validity. Journal of Forestry 78(7): 399–401. van Wagtendonk, J.W., and P.R. Coho. 1986. Trailhead quotas. Rationing use to keep wilderness wild. Journal of Forestry 84(11): 22-24. van Wagtendonk, J. W., and Parsons, D. J. 1996. Wilderness research and management in the Sierra Nevada National Parks. Science and ecosystem management in the National Parks. The University of Arizona Press, Tucson, AZ, 281-294. Wagar, J.A. 1964. The Carrying Capacity of Wildlands for Recreation. Forest Science Monograph 7. Washington, DC: Society of American Foresters.

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International Journal of Wilderness | August 2021 | Volume 27, Number 2

A sleeping volcano Mt Hood at sunset, appeared to be erupting not with lava but fiery orange cloud pattern. Photo credit © NOAA on Unsplash. August 2021 | Volume 27, Number 2 | International Journal of Wilderness



Crowding Perceptions at Wilderness Areas on Mount Baker, Washington and Mount Hood, Oregon by ROBERT C. BURNS, MARY E. ALLEN, and TERI L. CHUPRINKO


ABSTRACT The purpose of this study was to investigate the population of recreational mountaineers on two Cascade peaksMt. Hood, Oregon and Mt. Baker, Washington, situated in the US Pacific Northwest. Detailed information about the climbers’ socio-demographic information, trip characteristics, and group composition was identified to gain a better understanding of who the climbers are and to investigate the perceived crowding levels amongst segmented groups. A quantitative mixed method survey was utilized consisting of onsite interviews, mail-back surveys, and online surveys. Overall, perceived crowding was found to be at low or acceptable levels on both peaks. In addition, younger and beginner climbers reported higher levels of perceived crowding. Results are valuable in understanding the critical variable of crowding as it relates to the visitor experience.

Robert C. Burns

Mary E. Allen

Alpine environments around the world offer scenic beauty, unique natural formations and opportunities to experience adventure activities, such as mountaineering or mountain climbing, in remote wilderness environments (Williams & Soutar 2005). In the United States, many of these “wilderness” mountain areas are federally designated by U.S. Congress to


Teri L. Chuprinko International Journal of Wilderness | August 2021 | Volume 27, Number 2

provide a primitive and unconfined type of recreation, as well as opportunities for solitude in nature (Wilderness Act, 1964). Regardless of location, resource managers are often concerned about managing recreational use levels and their impacts on other users and the environment. For instance, higher visitor densities within a specific place can lead to perceptions of crowding, fewer opportunities for solitude, or changes to the quality of an outdoor experience (Vaske, Donnelly, & Heberlein 1980; Hall & Cole 2007). While there is an obvious link between the number of visitors encountered and a recreationist’s perception of crowding, it is much more complex. Perceived crowding is a multifaceted and subjective concept that can also be influenced by a place, visitor activity and characteristics, type of user encountered, as well as user behavior and culture (Vaske & Donnelly 2002). Thus, differing visitor characteristics and resource conditions cause individuals to respond to visitor densities in a variety of ways. The management of recreational use levels can be seen at Mount Baker, Washington and Mount Hood, Oregon, both of which are designated wilderness areas and popular climbing destinations (Figure 1). To prevent crowding and conflict, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) limits the number of days annually that guiding companies can operate. These management decisions are made in response to the number of users on the two mountains and whether those use-levels are consistent with the standards set by regulations (Burns, Chuprinko, & Allen 2020). Such decisions have become more critical, as participation rates in mountaineering and other adventure activities have increased by over 25 percent since 2009 (Outdoor Industry Foundation 2018). To better understand the underlying issues and impacts of carrying capacity, this study examined mountaineers’ perceptions of crowding at Mount Baker and Mount Hood, and how those perceptions may be shaped by other factors.

Figure 1 - Map of Mt. Hood, Oregon, and Mt. Baker, Washington (map credit: Jacquelyn Strager)

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Theoretical Framework The carrying capacity framework has been

capacity (Manning, 2001). People have social standards for the types of recreation experi-

applied to both the natural and social sci-

ences they desire. An example of a social

ences. In the context of outdoor recreation,

standard is the number of groups encoun-

carrying capacity is “the level of recreational

tered per day (Shelby & Heberlein 1986), or

use an area can withstand while providing a

in the case of this study, the number of other

sustained quality of recreation (Wagar 1964,

climbers on the summit of a mountain.

p.3).” This approach to carrying capacity

Carrying capacity of a recreational area can

is like natural science applications except

also be measured by identifying indica-

it also considers human social values as a

tors and thresholds of quality. Indicators are

critical component in determining the car-

specific measurable variables that reflect the

rying capacity of an area. As more people

essence or meaning of management objec-

visit a recreation area, there is an increase

tives (Manning 2001). In addition to being

in the potential for deterioration in both the

specific, indicators should be objective, man-

quality of the natural resource and the overall

ageable, reliable, repeatable, related to visitor

recreational experience (Wagar 1964). Thus,

use, and time sensitive (Manning 2001; 2007).

social carrying capacity in recreational areas

Some examples of indicators of quality could

depends on both human and biophysical

be percentage of ground cover at a campsite,


amount of braiding and erosion on a trail, and

Social Carrying Capacity Previous literature suggests that there are three dimensions of carrying capacityresource, experiential, and managerial (Lime & Stankey 1971; Manning 2007). According to Lime and Stankey, recreation areas should be managed for a wide range of activities, uses, and values. When management is trying to determine the carrying capacity for their recreation area, the entire area should be

the number of other groups seen in a wilderness area (Manning 2009). Thresholds are minimally acceptable conditions associated with each indicator (IVUMC 2019). Thresholds of quality can be established through agency policy, legal mandates and expert judgment or they can be identified through research of visitor perceptions (IVUMC 2019; Manning 2009).

Perceived Crowding One approach to understanding social carry-

considered so that an equal amount of activity

ing capacity is through an examination of user

variety is dispersed (Wagar 1974). However,

perceptions of crowding (Shelby & Heberlein

since human values are often subjective,

1986). Perceptions are the way in which an

determining the carrying capacity of a park

individual absorbs information about the sur-

or similar area can be an ambiguous process.

rounding environment. The individual will then

One of the challenges to social carrying

react based on their interpretations of experi-

capacity is determining the amount of impact

ence and attitudes developed in reaction to

allowable to the three dimensions of carrying

that experience (Lime & Stankey 1971). Many early studies on crowding were conducted in


International Journal of Wilderness | August 2021 | Volume 27, Number 2

federally designated wilderness after the creation of the Wilderness Act of 1964 (see Stankey & McCool 1984), which set aside tracts of land for the preservation of pristine environments and the chance of solitude. One widely used method of measuring perceived crowding is a single item, nine-point Likert-type scale. This method has been used to look at patterns in perceived crowding across “studies, areas and time” (Manning 2001). For example, Shelby, Vaske, and Heberlein (1989) compared crowding studies over a fifteen-year period and found that boaters on the Deschutes River, Oregon, reported various perceived crowding ratings throughout the span of four separate studies. Studies have also shown that perceptions of crowding can differ between first time users and repeat visitors (Vaske, Donnelly & Heberlein 1980), and visitors of varying experience levels (Schreyer & Lime 1984). More recently Ferguson and others (2018) examined Mount Hood ski lodge visitors and those people skiing, snowboarding, or sledding (snow users). This research suggested that, while some crowding existed across both segments (ski lodge users and snow users), the snow users reported less tolerance for other visitors. Kainzinger, Burns, and Arnberger (2015) noted both within-group and cross-group conflict and crowding in a study of North Umpqua river users. Although the crowding levels were low, overall trip satisfaction was impacted by crowding in both groups. Aikoh et al. (2018) used choice modeling to understand crowding norms in a world natural heritage site in Japan. As noted in many previous studies, the number of people in a given area tends to increase visitors’ perceptions of crowding, regardless of their crowding norms. Burns, Smaldone, Allen and Popham (2020) focused on understanding crowding in a low use wilderness setting, reporting the importance of setting management standards when attempting to use crowding as a management tool.

Purpose of Study Wilderness management requires an understanding of area-specific recreational use levels, visitor densities, and the demand for recreation activities such as mountaineering. At Mt. Hood, Oregon and Mt. Baker, Washington, effective management is heavily dependent upon understanding the extent to which recreationists utilize alpine areas, as well as their social and demographic characteristics, perceptions, and experiential preferences. This study examined the following questions: 1. What are the demographic characteristics of climbers on Mt. Hood and Mt. Baker? 2. Are there significant differences in the perceived quality of climbing experiences at Mt. Hood and Mt. Baker? 3. Are there significant differences in climbers’ perceptions of crowding at Mt. Hood and Mt. Baker?

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Study Locations Mount Hood National Forest and Mount

are also considered to be at a beginnerintermediate level in difficulty. Since climbers

Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest both lie in

enter Mt. Hood National Forest Wilderness

the U.S. Pacific Northwest and are managed

area on their route to the summit, all users are

by the United States Forest Service, Region 6

required to have a wilderness pass which is

(Figure 1). Region 6 encompasses a total of

acquired at the Climbing Cave located in the

17 forests, several National Recreation Areas,

ski area’s Wy’East Day Lodge.

a National Scenic Area, a National Grassland

As mandated but the Wilderness Act of

and two National Volcanic Monuments. One

1964, federal land managers must address

of the major recreation activities that attract

social carrying capacity levels. In the Mt. Hood

people from around the globe is recreational

Wilderness area, climbing parties are strictly

mountaineering on the several volcanic Cas-

limited to a maximum capacity of 12 members

cade Peaks, such as Mt. Hood and Mt. Baker.

per group. Climbers are asked to fill out climb-

Mount Hood Mt. Hood National Forest covers 1,067,043 acres of land including eight federally designated wilderness areas in northwestern Oregon. The largest, Mt. Hood Wilderness, was amongst the first wilderness areas designated protected by the Wilderness Act of 1964.

Undoubtedly one of the forest’s most

ing registration forms and practice Leave No Trace ethics. Users may also access more difficult climbing areas such as the Copper Spur Approach and Illumination Saddle Approach via wilderness trailheads like Cloud Cap and Tilly Jane on the mountain’s north side.

Mount Baker The Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

prominent features is Mt. Hood, an 11,239-foot

spans 140 miles from Mt. Rainer to the British

volcano and Oregon’s highest peak. The major

Columbian border and covers 1,724,229 acres.

metropolitan area of Portland, OR is located

This forest contains several Scenic Byways,

50 miles west of the mountain’s base, making

a National Wild and Scenic River, National

it a popular weekend destination for a wide

Recreation Areas and ten federally designated

variety of recreationists.

wilderness areas. The forest lies directly east

Climbing routes are spread out over 11

of the Seattle metropolitan area and, like

glaciers and range from beginner to advanced

Mount Hood, is a popular weekend retreat

levels of difficulty. The most popular climbing

for city dwellers for fishing, rafting, skiing, and

routes and ice climbs are easily accessed on

hiking. Mt. Baker lies in the North Cascades

the South Side Approach. The trailhead for the

Range of Washington, near the border of the

South Side climb is located next to the historic

United States and British Columbia, Canada.

Timberline Lodge and Ski Area. Most climbs

At 10,778 feet, this volcanic mountain is

on the South Side average less than three

the state’s third highest peak. Mt. Baker is

miles in length and usually require eight to

renowned as the most glaciated peak in the

twelve hours to complete. South Side climbs

Cascades and holds some of the highest snowfall records in the world.


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Climbing routes and ice climbs are scattered across the Coleman, Boulder, Easton, North Ridge, Park and Squak Glaciers. Like Mt. Hood, the routes on Mt. Baker range from beginner to advanced level. The most popular routes are the Coleman-Deming Glacier route on the north side and the Easton Glacier route on the south side. A typical climb on Mt. Baker lasts two days in duration. Since climbers must camp on the mountain, they are encouraged to carry out all trash. Climbers on Mt. Baker are also required to purchase a Northwest Forest Pass to use the parking areas located at most of the trailheads. The north side of Mt. Baker and the actual summit lies in federally designated wilderness and parties are limited to 12 members per party. The south side of the mountain lies in the Mt. Baker National Recreation Area, so the number of members per

Figure 2 - Mt. Hood. Photo credit: Teri L. Chuprinko

party is not limited until the summit attempt.

Figure 3 - Mt. Baker. Photo credit: Teri L. Chuprinko

August 2021 | Volume 27, Number 2 | International Journal of Wilderness


Climbing registration kiosks are located at the

the highest volume of both commercial and

Sedro-Woolley Ranger Station for south side

private traffic. More advanced climbers also

approaches and at the Glacier Public Service

descend via the South Side route from more

Center for north side approaches. As on Mt.

difficult areas on the north side of the moun-

Hood, climbing registration is encouraged but

tain. Interviews were also conducted on the

not required.

Cloud Cap and Tilly Jane trailheads later in the

Methods Data Collection This study utilized three methods of data

season. However, these trailheads remained inaccessible due to a late season snowfall which occurred throughout much of the onsite data collection timeframe. On Mt. Baker’s

collection: on-site interviews, an online survey,

north side, interviews were conducted on the

and a mail-back survey. Because visitors

Heliotrope Ridge trailhead. This trail provides

travel to both mountains for mountaineering

access to the popular Colman-Deming route

and other recreational activities (e.g., skiing,

as well as the more advanced North Ridge ice

snowboarding, snowshoeing, and hiking),

climb. On Mt. Baker’s south side, interviews

respondents were asked to indicate their

were conducted at the Park Butte trailhead,

primary activity before further data were

which allows access to climbs on the Easton

collected. To make sure that interview respon-

Glacier. The Easton Glacier is a popular desti-

dents were climbers, researchers asked each

nation for not only summit attempts, but also

respondent if they were attempting to summit

ice climbing and crevasse rescue training.

the peaks, ice climbing, or participating in a

All efforts aside, the inclement weather may

climbing course (e.g., crevasse rescue). Only

have had a negative effect on the overall

those who answered, “Yes,” to this question

on-site data collection for the months of

were asked to continue with the interview. For

May and June. On Mt. Hood, a total of 144

the mail back survey responses, researchers

completed onsite interviews were collected

only contacted visitors with Forest Service

out of the 190 climbers intercepted, yielding

Wilderness Permits who indicated the moun-

a 76% response rate. On Mt. Baker, there was

tain summit as the trip destination. The online

a total of 166 completed onsite interviews out

survey was distributed only to previous clients

of the 218 climbers intercepted, yielding a 76%

and members of mountaineering clubs.

response rate. Refusals to participate in onsite

For the on-site interviews, sampling was

interviews could possibly be attributed to the

conducted from May to August of 2010, which

high degree of physical activity that mountain-

is the typical peak of the climbing seasons

eering requires, inclement weather, or other

on both mountains. Researchers interviewed

contextual factors.

climbers using exit surveys of randomly

The second data collection method was

selected party members. On Mt. Hood, the

through an online survey. Contact information

South Side trailhead was selected as the initial

was collected from the intercepted climbers

survey location. The South Side route receives

who were interested in participating in the


International Journal of Wilderness | August 2021 | Volume 27, Number 2

study but preferred to complete the survey

Hood) and 352 (Mt. Baker). In attempts to

on their own time. These contacts were sent

attain a higher response rate for both surveys,

a link to complete the online survey. The

postcard reminders were sent out in mid-

online survey was administered in a software

September for Mt. Hood and in late October

platform that included a security feature

for Mt. Baker. The total number of Mt. Hood

allowing only one submission per computer

mail-back responses was 173 with a response

IP address. This feature helped mitigate

rate of 53.4%. The total mail-back response

repeat responses and preserve the validity of

for Mt. Baker was 172 with a response rate of

the data collected using this methodology.

48.8%. Overall, out of 678 possible contacts,

Researchers also examined each individual

researchers received a total of 346 responses

IP address on the surveys, and any repeat IP

with response rate of 51.0%.

addresses were deleted before being transferred to the database. After deleting repeat or illegible addresses, researchers were left with 389 possible contacts for Mt. Hood and 421 contacts for Mt. Baker.

Results Overall, the sample of climbers interviewed was middle-aged, highly educated, white males. Most climbers were male (86.5%; N = 721) with only a small portion being female

The third method of data collection was through a mail-back survey. Resource managers provided researchers with a list of 407

(13.5%; N = 113). Half (50.2%) of the respondents fell into the 31-50 age group. Overall, the climbers on Mt. Hood and Mt. Baker were

names, addresses, and phone numbers of

highly educated. Nearly one-half (44.1%) of

people who climbed Mt. Hood during two

respondents had earned a bachelor’s degree,

full climbing seasons. This information was obtained from the climbing registration forms and Wilderness Permits that indicated intent to summit Mt. Hood. For Mt. Baker, resource managers provided researchers with a list of 400 names, addresses, and phone number

and more than one–fourth of the sample obtained a master’s degree. Approximately 11.9% of the respondents had earned a Ph.D., M.D., J.D or other Professional degree. The sample almost entirely consisted of white-Anglo-Americans/Eastern Europeans

from the climbing registration forms for the two full climbing seasons. Following the Dillman et. al (2014) methodology, the addresses on each survey and postcard sent out for the mail-back portion of the study were handwrit-

(99.2%), whereas only a small proportion (1.6%) indicated being of Hispanic, Latino or Spanish ethnic origin.

Quality of Climbing Experiences The analysis showed significant differences

ten. The first round of surveys for Mt. Hood was sent out on May 15th. Since researchers

in whether climbers had to wait at “choke

received the Mt. Baker contacts later in the

points” (crowded or highly congested areas)

summer, the first round of surveys was not

while on their climbing routes (Table 1). Over-

sent until August 20th. The final numbers

all, most climbers on Mt. Baker (83.9%) and Mt.

of correct possible contacts were 326 (Mt.

Hood (67.0%) did not report waiting at choke

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points or crowded areas while on their climb. However, one-third (33.0%) of Mt. Hood climbers indicated that they had to wait at choke points or crowded areas, which was about twice as many climbers as on Mt. Baker (16.1%) (x2 = 31.450, df = 1; p < .001). Climbers on Mt. Baker and Mt. Hood expressed similar preferences for seeing groups while on their climbing route (x2 = .032, df = 1; p > .05). Approximately one-third of climbers on each mountain indicated that it would matter if they saw groups while climbing, whereas two-thirds said that this would not matter (Table 1). Climbers’ responses varied significantly when asked to indicate an acceptable percentage of time to see other groups while on their climbing routes (x2 = 18.698; df = 4; p < .001). About half of the respondents on Mt. Baker (51.0%) would be comfortable seeing other groups during 21-50 percent of their climbs. Conversely, on Mt. Hood about half (49.0%) would find seeing groups over 50 percent acceptable (37.0%).

Table 1 - Mt. Hood and Mt. Baker climbers’ responses to crowding indicators.

Table 2 - Comparison of crowding indicators reported by Mt. Hood and Mt. Baker climbers.


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Several crowding indicators were analyzed with an independent samples t-test to

Perceptions of Crowding The climbers were asked to indicate how

determine if differences existed between the

crowded they felt during their most recent

mean responses of climbers at Mt. Hood and

climbing experiences on Mt. Baker and Mt.

Mt. Baker respondents (Table 2). Of the four

Hood (Table 3). Overall, most climbers on Mt.

indicators analyzed, two yielded significant

Baker (74.3%) and Mt. Hood (69.8%) perceived

differences. First, the climbers were asked

relatively low levels of crowding. However, the

to report the percentage of time acceptable

climbers on each mountain differed in their

to see other groups while on their climbing

distribution of responses (x2 = 21.161, df = 3; p <

routes. Results showed that climbers on Mt.

.001). A significantly larger proportion of climb-

Hood (M = 58.56) approved seeing others at

ers on Mt. Hood (43.6%) indicated that they

a significantly higher rate than at Mt. Baker

were not at all crowded than those who were

(M = 52.51, (t = -3.068; p < .001). Furthermore,

climbing on Mt. Baker (37.7%). However, more

climbers who reported that waiting at choke

climbers on Mt. Baker (36.6%) reported feeling

points mattered to them were asked to report

slightly crowded than those on Mt. Hood

an acceptable amount of time (in minutes) to

(26.2%). Nonetheless, Mt. Hood climbers were

wait at choke points. The results, though sig-

much more likely to feel moderately crowded

nificantly different (M = 12.81, t = 6.359; p < .05),

(30.2%) to extremely crowded (5.0%) than Mt.

varied little. Mt. Hood climbers were willing

Baker climbers.

to wait about 16 minutes (M = 15.73) at choke

Climbers were also asked to indicate their

points, whereas climbers on Mt. Baker would

perceived level of crowding compared to

be willing to wait about 13 minutes.

what they expected to see (Table 3). The

Table 3 - Mt. Hood and Mt. Baker climbers’ responses to perceived crowding and expectations.

August 2021 | Volume 27, Number 2 | International Journal of Wilderness


distribution of responses was significantly different between the two mountains (x2 =

Discussion and Conclusion This study goes beyond obtaining a basic

23.704, df = 5; p < .001). Generally, climbers on

understanding of who the climbers are on Mt.

both mountains reported seeing about the

Hood and Mt. Baker and understanding their

same amount of crowding that they expected

crowding levels. The findings show that the

to see. However, 25.8% of climbers on Mt.

perceived quality of mountaineering experi-

Baker reported seeing higher crowding levels

ences relative to perceived crowding on the

than they expected, whereas 27.9% of climbers

two peaks is generally quite high. Additionally,

on Mt. Hood reported seeing lower crowding

this study found that perceived crowding on

levels than they expected.

the two peaks is at a low or acceptable level.

On a five-point scale, the climbers rated

This notion is supported by the fact that the

the extent to which they agreed or disagreed

climbers’ actual wait times on climbing routes

with a series of crowding attributes pertain-

were equal to the wait times climbers consid-

ing to their recreation experience (Table 4).

ered acceptable. Furthermore, most climbers

Overall, climbers on both Mt. Baker (M = 4.17)

accepted seeing other groups while on a

and Mt. Hood (M = 4.00) generally agreed

climbing route and felt only slightly or not at

that they were able to recreate without

all crowded during their climbing experiences

feeling crowded. The statement, I avoided

on the two mountains. This suggests that the

some places because there were too many

visitor density levels and wait times did not

people, yielded a significantly stronger level

interfere with mountain climbing experi-

of disagreement from climbers on Mt. Baker

ences relative to perceived crowding, and the

(M = 2.23) than those on Mt. Hood (M = 2.48, t

management thresholds for carrying capacity

= -2.961; p < .001). However, climbers on Mt.

is appropriate.

Hood (M = 3.19) expressed more agree-

When interpreting these results, it is impor-

ment with the statement, the other people

tant to acknowledge that these are visitor

increased my enjoyment, than the climbers on

perceptions. Two-thirds of the visitors said the

Mt. Baker (M = 3.04, (t = -2.338; p < .001).

number of other groups seen on their climbing

Table 4 - Comparison of crowding attributes rated by Mt. Hood and Mt. Baker climbers.


International Journal of Wilderness | August 2021 | Volume 27, Number 2

route did not matter to them, but conversely 80% said waiting for others at choke points did matter. This suggests that crowding is extremely site specific on these mountains. This is supported by the notion that most respondents had the opportunity to recreate without crowding, and most disagreed that the number of others reduced their enjoyment. Put simply, visitors perceived some minor level of crowding, but overall, their experiences were not negatively impacted by other visitors. Management may consider focusing on specific choke points and developing management schemes for these specific, known settings. However, the results show that crowding is not a critical variable to managers currently. Resource managers should consider following this trend over time to understand how crowding changes, if at all. In addition, while some significant differences were seen regarding the variables across the two mountain settings, these were not “managerially” significant. The differences are not so great that managers should deviate in a management strategy in both places. Mt. Baker climbers reported it would be ok to see others 52% of the time while Mt. Hood climbers said 58% of the time. Similarly, Mt. Baker visitors accepted a wait time of about 13 minutes while Mt Hood climbers reported about 16 minutes was appropriate. Regardless of these significant differences, most visitors on both mountains said it was okay to see others most of the time, and there was agreement that waiting between 10-15 minutes would be okay.

Management is driven by social values and the perspectives of resource users, yet at the same time, must balance the amount of use with the quality of natural resource conditions. Implications Perhaps one unanswered question is, for whom are the resource staff managing? In 2000, when a team of resource managers and social researchers were examining outdoor recreation use in wilderness settings, Freimund and Cole (2001, p.2) explained that, “Mt. Hood is one of the most frequently climbed mountains in the world. On an average weekend, more than 200 people per day summit Mount Hood via the South Climb route. On some days, over 400 people attempt the summit.” Yet, most recreationists in this study did not feel crowded. In fact, they felt that the number of other people they saw was appropriate. These findings are consistent with the carrying capacity thresholds set by managers and suggests that these levels are acceptable from a social perspective. Monitoring of visitor density and perceived crowding levels informs management when thresholds are at risk of being crossed and whether further action is required to prevent a decline in the quality of recreational (and environmental) conditions. If monitoring August 2021 | Volume 27, Number 2 | International Journal of Wilderness


continues to indicate the capacity thresholds are not being exceeded, no further action may be needed. However, managers must also consider whether the capacity levels continue to help sustain natural resource conditions in wilderness areas. Management is driven by social values and the perspectives of resource users, yet at the same time, must balance the amount of use with the quality of natural resource conditions. The data reported here show that the amount of use is “appropriate” from the perspective of climbers on Mt. Hood and Mt. Baker. It is up to resource management professionals to ensure that use on these mountains is appropriate when compared to Forest Service or other legislating documents, such as the Wilderness Act of 1964 or forest management plans. Standards for what is appropriate is informed by both natural resource and social values. Managing by matching visitor perceptions with federal legislative mandates will be a challenge, as pressure is bound to be placed on resource staff from all angles. By investing in a sustained data collection effort, Region 6 managers are demonstrating a will to make decisions that have the potential of positively impact the greatest proportion of visitors. An unanswered question is how the findings of this study compare to other Wilderness activities and settings. A future direction will be to compare crowding expectations across riverine and land-based settings to determine the universality of visitors to wilderness settings.

Acknowledgements Funding for this study was provided by the US Forest Service, Region 6, and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).

DR. ROBERT C. BURNS is director of the Division of Forestry and Natural Resources, West Virginia University and an interdisciplinary social scientist; email: DR. MARY E. ALLEN is a social scientist with Lynker, Inc. under contract to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Coral Reef Conservation Program, Office for Coastal Management, and also leads the National Coral Reef Monitoring Program’s socioeconomic component; email: Mary.Allen1@mail. TERI L. CHUPRINKO is in the School of Public Health, West Virginia University; email: Teri.chuprinko@hsc.


International Journal of Wilderness | August 2021 | Volume 27, Number 2

References Aikoh, T., Y. Shoji, T. Tsuge, S. Shibasaki, & K. Yamamoto. 2020. Application of the double-bounded dichotomous choice model to the estimation of crowding acceptability in natural recreation areas. Journal of Outdoor Recreation and Tourism 32: 100195 Burns, R. C., T. Chuprinko,., & M. E. Allen. 2020. Understanding Pacific Northwest (U.S.) mountain climbers’ motivations: Mount Baker, Washington, and Mount Hood, Oregon. Eco Mont: Journal on Protected Mountain Area Research and Management 12(1): 4-14. Burns, R. C., D. Smaldone, M. E. Allen, & A. Popham. 2020. Monitoring Outdoor Recreation Use: The Umatilla National Forest, Wenaha Wild and Scenic River Corridor. International Journal of Wilderness 26(1): 54-71. Dillman, D. A., J. D. Smyth, and L. M. Christian. 2014. Internet, phone, mail, and mixed-mode surveys: The tailored design method. John Wiley & Sons. Ferguson, M. D., R. C. Burns, & D. Smaldone. 2018. Innovations in outdoor recreation visitor use management: Applying market segmentation at the Timberline Lodge Recreation Complex. International Leisure Review 7(1): 108-131. Freimund, W. A., & D. N. Cole. 2001. Use density, visitor experience, and limiting recreational use in Wilderness: Progress to date and research needs. In Visitor use density and wilderness experience: proceedings; 2000 June 13; Missoula, MT. Proceedings RMRS-P-20. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. 67 p. Hall, T. E., & D.N. Cole. 2007. Changes in the Motivations, Perceptions, and Behaviors of Recreation Users: Displacement and Coping in Wilderness. Research Paper RMRS-RP-63. US Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fort Collins, CO, 37 pp. IVUM (Interagency Visitor Use Monitoring Council). 2019. Visitor Capacity Guidebook Managing the Amounts and Types of Visitor Use to Achieve Desired Conditions. Lakewood, CO. Kainzinger, S., R. C. Burns, & A. Arnberger. 2015. In-group and out-group conflict between whitewater boaters and anglers: The case of the North Umpqua Wild and Scenic River, Oregon. Human Dimensions of Wildlife 20(6): 542-552. Lime, D., & G. Stankey. 1971. Carrying capacity: Maintaining outdoor recreation quality. Recreation Symposium Proceedings. USDA Forest Service, 174-184. Manning, R. E. 2001. Programs that work visitor experience and resource protection: A Framework for managing the carrying capacity of National Parks. Journal of Park and Recreation Administration 19(1): 93-108. Manning, R. E. 2007. Parks and carrying capacity: Commons without Tragedy. Washington DC: Island Press. Manning, R.E. 2009. Parks and people: Managing outdoor recreation at Acadia National Park. Lebanon, NH: University of Vermont Press. Outdoor Industry Foundation. 2018. Outdoor Recreation Participation Report, 2018. Boulder, CO. Schreyer, R., & D. W. Lime. 1984. A Novice isn’t necessarily a novice: The influence of experience use history on subjective perceptions of recreation participation. Leisure Sciences 6(2): 131-149. Shelby, B., & T. A. Heberlein. 1986. Carrying Capacity in Recreation Settings. Corvallis, OR: Oregon State University Press. Shelby, B, J. J. Vaske, & T. A. Heberlein. 1989. Comparative analysis of crowding in multiple locations: Results from fifteen years of research. Leisure Sciences 11(4): 269-291. Stankey, G. H., & S. F. McCool. 1984. Carrying capacity in recreational settings: Evolution, appraisal, and application. Leisure Sciences 6(4): 453–473. Vaske, J. J., M. P. Donnelly, & T. A. Heberlein. 1980. Perceptions of crowding and resource quality by early and more recent visitors. Leisure Sciences 3(4): 367-381. Vaske, J. J., & M. P. Donnelly. 2002. Generalizing the encounter-norm-crowding relationship. Leisure Sciences 24, 255269. Wagar, J. A. 1964. The Carrying capacity of wild lands for recreation. Forest Science Monograph 7. Washington, DC: Society of American Foresters. Wagar, J. A. 1974. Recreational carrying capacity reconsidered. Journal of Forestry 72: 274-278. Williams, P., &G. Soutar. 2005. Close to the “edge”: Critical issues for adventure tourism operators. Asia Pacific Journal of Tourism Research 10(3): 247-261.

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International Journal of Wilderness | August 2021 | Volume 27, Number 2

Hiker with a large backpack. Photo credit © Jake Melara on Unsplash August 2021 | Volume 27, Number 2 | International Journal of Wilderness




Christopher A. Aramatas

Jimmy Gaudry

Bill Hodge

Heather MacSlarrow

Shared stewardship for the National Wilderness Preservation System (NWPS), or the creation of partnerships, is integral to the completion of basic and fundamental stewardship tasks within wilderness (e.g., trail work, Leave No Trace education, monitoring). However, successful wilderness shared stewardship is impeded by a variety of barriers, which are institutional

Michelle Mitchell

(e.g., employee turnover), practical (e.g., lack of staff, limited informational resources about how to set up partnerships), and conceptual (e.g., ambiguity surrounding what wilderness shared stewardship is). There has been some effort to formally document and understand the challenges, components of success, and solutions within the context of wilderness shared stewardship. However, much of that effort was completed over Nancy Taylor


International Journal of Wilderness | August 2021 | Volume 27, Number 2

ten years ago, which highlights a question as to whether previously documented barriers have been addressed. The goal of this paper is to update the knowledge around the idea of wilderness shared stewardship and to encourage future discussions that foster an empathetic understanding among those engaging in shared stewardship. We suggest that empathy will be critical for success and sustainability of the partnership model. To address these goals, we present findings from surveys and a group empathy exercise implemented during a plenary session at the 2019 National Wilderness Workshop (NWW) in Bend, Oregon, where over 100 workshop participants gathered to discuss shared stewardship.

Wilderness Shared Stewardship Shared stewardship of the NWPS has been ongoing since the passage of the Act in 1964, as reflected through long-standing partnership organizations such as the Student Conservation Association. More recently, the effort toward collective wilderness stewardship was recognized in the “Ten Year Wilderness Stewardship Challenge” (USDA Forest Service 2004). There are also a few instances of formal documentation and empirical study on shared stewardship. The main findings of these efforts (Table 1) generally highlight basic, and often fundamental, elements that are lacking (e.g., funding, collaboration). Additionally, these efforts highlight resulting barriers (e.g., inflexible funding mechanisms, challenge of building relationships with high turnover) which need to be overcome to develop more success. While there is a dearth of recent literature on wilderness shared stewardship, the topic of shared stewardship has recently been investigated and articulated in other contexts, including

Table 1 - A summary of findings previously reported on wilderness shared stewardship

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Figure 1 – The empathy exercise at the 2019 National Wilderness Workshop

fire management and forest health (USDA Forest Service 2018) and trails management and administration (Boyst 2020; Cerveny, Derrien, and Miller 2020).

Empathy in shared stewardship partnerships Research has shown that empathy, or the “sensing and sharing of feelings of one person by another” (Pavlovich and Krahnke 2012:132), is an integral component of collaborative work (Ansell and Gash 2008; J. R. Hagmann et al. 2002; Wald et al. 2017; Yasmi, Schanz, and Salim 2006). Collaboration is at the core of shared stewardship of the NWPS, and two entities that commonly collaborate, agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), work in very different environments with different tasks and goals. For instance, an NGO focused on providing stewardship crews to agencies may have a mission of empowering youth and young adults, while agency staff who engage those crews are focused on meeting the mission and priorities of the land management agency and current administration. A lack of understanding of that difference can lead to miscommunication and may strain relationships. Empathy is related to the goals of trust building, shared understanding, and collaborative governance (Pavlovich and Krahnke 2012; J. Hagmann and Chuma 2002). Collaborative governance, according to the commonly cited theory of Ansell and Gash (2008:544), is defined as: “a governing arrangement where one or more public agencies directly engage non-state stakeholders in a collective decision-making process that is formal, consensus-oriented,


International Journal of Wilderness | August 2021 | Volume 27, Number 2

and deliberative and that aims to make or

then place the cards in two separate piles

implement public policy or manage public

(survey-card pile, and empathy-card pile). All

programs or assets.” In their framework, the

survey cards were collected, and the groups

collaborative process consists of face-to-

were asked to rotate so that they arrived

face dialogue, trust building, commitment

at a pile of empathy cards which were not

to the process, shared understanding, and

written by anyone in the arriving group. The

intermediate outcomes. These connections

pile of empathy cards were then read aloud,

between empathy, collaboration, and shared

and each group discussed what was written

stewardship guided our work as we aimed

on the card within the context of wilderness

to create a space where the wilderness

shared stewardship (Figure 1). Groups notes

community could better understand one

and answers written on both the survey and

another for the benefit of furthering shared

empathy cards were recorded and coded in

stewardship partnerships.

terms of common categories and themes. We categorized the responses of 98

Examining Empathy

participants into four categories: agency

As participants convened for the shared

workers, NGO representatives, volunteers, and

stewardship discussion at the 2019 NWW,

‘other’ (e.g., university employees, interested

data collection materials were distributed

citizens). Within these different categories,

to all participants. The materials consisted

there was a range of roles. For instance, within

of two separate cards: a survey card and an empathy-exercise card. The survey card had five questions: (1) role (e.g., agency employee, volunteer); (2) geographic location of wilderness stewardship; (3) level of agreement related to whether or not shared stewardship is ‘working’; (4) reasons for why shared stewardship is successful (or not successful) and; (5) innovative ideas related to what might benefit shared stewardship work in the future. The second, empathy-exercise card, asked participants to record things “that cause you worry or anxiety about your job as it relates to shared stewardship”.

workers, program managers, regional and district representation, and national leadership. The diversity of those who participated is also represented in the different areas of the United States where people were engaging in wilderness shared stewardship (Figure 2). Unsurprisingly, given the location of the workshop in Bend, Oregon, the most mentions were of Oregon and its surrounding states. Generally, participants felt that shared stewardship of the NWPS was working. On a five-point scale from strongly disagree (1) to strongly agree (5), the mean value was

The cards were numbered prior to distribution, and everybody in the room was asked to self-organize based on their number (1-10 in a group, 11-20 in a group, etc.). People were then asked to fill in their cards, and

the agency category, there were seasonal

3.68. Around two-thirds of people agreed, either ‘somewhat’ or ‘strongly’, and only 11 people disagreed, either ‘somewhat’ or ‘strongly’. The open-ended survey questions and the empathy exercise conveyed a

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Figure 2 – Map of States mentioned by participants in relation to their shared stewardship work

more detailed understanding of wilderness

shared stewardship. For instance, Participant

shared stewardship. These findings are

36 (NGO) responded that “history of conflict

discussed in terms of five themes: (1) culture

endangers future connections.” Feelings of

and community; (2) communication and

inadequacy were often mentioned by people

coordination; (3) practice; (4) capacity; and (5)

both within and outside of the agencies.

big, existential issues.

Participant 35 (NGO) noted that “working

Culture and community

with experts in the field gives me imposter

Perhaps one of the larger assets existing within the context of wilderness management and shared stewardship is the passion of those stewarding wilderness lands. In response to why shared stewardship is working, “passionate people” was a recurring comment. Conversely, issues related to a lack of gratitude, feelings of inadequacy, an ‘elitist’ agency culture, and general trust and relationship issues were expressed by 24 people in the context of that which is impeding 62

syndrome. I don’t know the lingo, acronyms, or really what they’re talking about half the time.” An experienced agency employee in a leadership role replied: “I fear that I am not qualified enough/educated enough to train, supervise interns” (Participant 49). Under the ‘community’ sub-theme, 31 people made comments that were organized into issues including a lack of inclusivity, uneven community interest (e.g., rural and less popular wilderness areas lacking support),

International Journal of Wilderness | August 2021 | Volume 27, Number 2

and the need to intentionally broaden how the wilderness community is defined. Sixteen people specifically mentioned the lack of diversity and/or the need from a more representative community. Participant 13 (agency) stated the need to “be intentional about building equity into new policies and ensuring underserved and underrepresented groups are heard.”

Communication And Coordination Overall, 43 people made comments that were organized into this theme. Communication is a keystone element for the shared stewardship endeavor, as Participant 35 (NGO) stated: “communication leads it one way or another.” Specific to communication, there were calls for increased transparency in decision-making, and better conveyance of knowledge through education and outreach. The importance of communication was clear, in many cases, when people highlighted their main concerns within the context of the empathy exercise. For instance, Participant 46 (agency) stated their main worry or anxiety as: “time commitment required, and lack of understanding/patience from shared stewardship partnerships/volunteers.” This worry suggests from their perspective that partners are not aware of the challenges agency employees face trying to engage in shared stewardship. Related to communication, a recurring set of comments focused on coordination, or the need to better consolidate and organize efforts related to shared stewardship and wilderness management. For instance, Participant 94 (agency) noted the need for “united leadership”, and Participant 82 (NGO) suggested the need for a “new wilderness entity overall to coordinate all (e.g., the four agencies need wilderness leadership).” Comments were not only in reference to on-the-ground coordination, but they also related to coordination of our understanding of shared stewardship as a concept. There were several who conveyed a lack of understanding about what shared stewardship is generally, and/or what its purpose is specifically. As Participant 98 (volunteer) explained: “I am unsure, as a volunteer in a small wilderness group, what shared stewardship means and how to encourage it.”

Practice Practice describes those facets of shared stewardship that relate to day-to-day operations. Twenty-two comments organized under this theme highlight inefficiencies that stem both from a lack of clarity on peoples’ roles (and taking advantage of peoples’ particular strengths) and the “duplication of work” (Participant 78, agency). Other comments referenced the need for practical tools such as databases and central locations of information, as well as guides or protocols for improving transparency. The “creation of best practices” (Participant 66, agency) was mentioned, as was an “online system” for sharing resources (Participant 30, agency), a “portal for info dissemination” (participant 8, NGO), or any place to make “data collection public info” (Participant 49, agency). Lastly, we organized comments related to well-known and discussed issues of agency turnover into this theme, as it can lead to the loss of important relationships and institutional knowledge. As Participant 65 noted: “We are dependent on heroes. Good

August 2021 | Volume 27, Number 2 | International Journal of Wilderness


stewardship performance is dependent upon relationships. When people move on, relationships are broken and trust and performance declines.”

Capacity Comments related to capacity were generally in reference to: (1) a lack of funding, time, personnel, experience, and training (33 people); (2) a concern that an over-reliance on partnerships will lead to less stable agency funding for wilderness (10 people) and; (3) partner capacity (or lack thereof) (5 people). Of these three general comment areas, those related to ‘partner capacity’ may need clarification. These comments often pointed toward one side of the partnership model as deficient. For instance, Participant 34 (agency) noted, “not all areas have willing, competent, capable, and engaged partners”, and Participant 79 (agency) focused specifically on deficiencies associated with ‘advocacy’ by stating: “lacking an organized stewardship group to work with that is not focused on advocacy.” From the non-agency perspective, Participant 52 (NGO) suggested that they would “be much more effective if agency partners had more interest in, or capacity to help make the partnerships work. Coordinating projects with agencies is our #1 problem stopping us from accomplishing more.”

Big, Existential Issues Comments organized in this theme capture the broad range of concerns facing the wilderness community that extend beyond wilderness. Nine people expressed concerns about politics influencing the ability to steward the lands, whether through an impact on “funding or day-to-day decisions” (Participant 59, agency), or “an administration that does not seem to share our values” (Participant 10, NGO). Another recurrent concern was the loss, or lack, of values and connection with nature. Specifically, within this context on values, there was the idea that restricting use or charging fees would erode wilderness stewardship. For instance, Participant 63 (volunteer) stated that “restrictions and use limits will not create wilderness stewards or advocates. In fact, it will do the opposite.” Within the specific context of partnering, Participant 92 (agency) stated: “The use fees charged by agencies and the transaction fees will hurt agencies ability to be seen as true partners.” Lastly, participants highlighted the challenge that the shared stewardship model, however defined, is not supported by everyone. Usually, the lack of internal support for shared stewardship was focused on the agencies or, more specifically, agency leaders. These comments were made both by agency personnel concerned that leadership does not prioritize wilderness stewardship, as well as partners concerned that the agencies are not fully committed to partnerships. For instance, one participant stated, “agency partners don’t equally embrace partnerships” (Participant 115, NGO), and yet another cited a “resistance to a shared stewardship model” (Participant 73, agency).


International Journal of Wilderness | August 2021 | Volume 27, Number 2

The Conversation Going Forward Lived Experience Related To Partnerships Five non-agency participants noted a feeling of not being valued (something also noted by Myers and Hunger (2006)), and nine agency participants noted that they felt misunderstood or that they lacked the time or ability to clearly convey an overwhelming workload. This suggests, primarily, a need for increasing awareness among the wilderness community about peoples’ lived experiences. Such awareness may highlight tractable solutions or, at the very least, tractable first steps. For example, changing the perception of a non-agency partner, who might view an agency employee as aloof or unengaged within the context of a partnership, may be as simple as conveying the current workload of tasks that is leading to a lack of ability to contribute time to a partnership. Similarly, if providing tokens of appreciate to volunteers (e.g., travel reimbursement, snacks) is not possible, then articulating such impediments may be worthwhile. Of course, continuing the conversation is critical to understand how volunteers are specifically feeling underappreciated, or in what ways agency personnel feel that their jobs are not clearly understood by the general public.

Sharing feelings through open conversations may help members of a partnership unite around a common passion for wilderness, whereby relationships become stronger through an empathetic understanding of the challenges, as well as an understanding that members care deeply for the wilderness resource.

We suggest that conversations between agency and non-agency partners, even when related to the minutiae of everyday work life, can foster empathy among those involved. These conversations may not only highlight elements of the partnership that are impeding progress (e.g., a lack of time or funding), but they can facilitate getting to know the person behind the stewardship role. Sharing feelings through open conversations may help members of a partnership unite around a common passion for wilderness, whereby relationships become stronger through an empathetic understanding of the challenges, as well as an understanding that members care deeply for the wilderness resource.

Indicators Of Success, Incentive Structures, And The Meaning Of Shared Stewardship It is notable that there is a lack of understanding between shared stewardship entities (agencies and NGOs) about the pressures, and indicators of success. For instance, agencies are often facing pressure to increase the scope of completed projects in wilderness, which can

August 2021 | Volume 27, Number 2 | International Journal of Wilderness


lead to requests for partners to contribute staff time. However, budgetary restrictions

generally has final say is important. Perhaps a better distinction would be

may make agency funding of partner staff

between collaborative governance, as

time challenging. Additionally, the respective

described above (which does require an

missions of partner organizations may

assessment of power differences), and

influence perspectives of what successful

co-governance, which implies a level of

stewardship looks like (e.g., miles of trail

equal decision-making power. Collaborative

maintained may be secondary to teaching

governance relationships, as defined

youth life skills). Clearly communicating these

herein, may have unequal distribution of

differences appears to be important for joint

decision-making power. Indeed, federal

priority setting.

land management agencies, may be legally

With better communication, it may also

restricted from transferring the decision-

be possible to better understand the exact

making power to non-federal entities.

meaning of shared stewardship within the

However, with the recognition that ownership

wilderness context, as well as how different

in the shared stewardship process is both

roles may be most effective. Several people

critical and tied to decision-making power, as

mentioned a lack of clarity about the meaning

wilderness shared stewardship evolves, there

of shared stewardship, or how to encourage it

may be opportunities to increase a sense of

among volunteers. Additionally, it was noted

decision-making ownership on the part of

that, for instance, that the role of science

agency partners. For instance, while under

within the context of shared stewardship was

current laws and policies, agencies are the

unclear. Therefore, one goal of a continued

ultimate decision-makers with regard to the

discussion surrounding shared stewardship

type or scope of projects being completed,

would be to develop a basic primer about the

shared stewardship could be formalized in a


way that provides partners with decision-

Communication and clear definition of

making power with regard to how a program

shared stewardship could create a better

or project is implemented within shared

understanding of fundamentals related to

stewardship contexts?

the partnership model. For instance, Day

While power disparity can complicate

(2011) highlighted the point made by an

relationships, mitigating potential

agency partner, who stated that wilderness

complications likely comes with a better

shared stewardship constitutes a cooperative

understanding of what is possible (and

partnership rather than a collaborative

not possible) within shared stewardship

partnership, as the decision-making power

contexts. Clear communication about roles

remains with the agency. While distinguishing

and expectations may facilitate a feeling

between cooperative and collaborative

of shared ownership over the stewardship

partnerships may be challenging, the point

process. A belief that such roles are not

that the agency side of the partnership

well defined was evident in the following


International Journal of Wilderness | August 2021 | Volume 27, Number 2

comment by Participant 4 (NGO): “I’m concerned that our partner group has been forced to take on too many decisions which should be agency-driven.” This highlights a need to ensure that non-agency partners within the shared stewardship model are recognized as integral entities who can provide a unique set of skills and, therefore, are an important supplement to agency work. In other words, even if funds for wilderness stewardship were limitless, partnerships with non-agency entities would still be critical to the future of the NWPS. For instance, given the high turnover and career incentives that result in frequent relocations within the federal agencies, non-federal partners may represent a more stable, place-based source of wilderness knowledge. When combining these recommendations for focusing the conversation around shared stewardship with the suggested need for more shared understanding and empathy, we conclude with a suggestion for what shared stewardship means, as an ideal. In practice, shared stewardship means sharing empathy, learning, risk, reward, opportunity, failure, and success across organizational divides. It starts from a place of curiosity, humility, and openness. There are fundamental questions inherent to the shared stewardship process, including: What do we know about this resource, it’s current condition, the context within which it exists and will exist over time, and the condition we hope to leave it in for the future? What ideas do we have in common; what differences of opinion and position do we represent? What are our hopes and fears? And, if we moved forward together to maximize hope and minimize fear, what good could we effect? Of course, it is recognized that legal frameworks often vest decision making authority with a single entity– usually a federal agency. However, shared stewardship realizes that the impact of these decisions is felt over the interrelated whole and seeks to invite that whole to engage in the totality of the decision-making process, including owning the risk and reward of acting and supporting each other as an interrelated community.

CHRISTOPHER A. ARMATAS is a research social scientist at the Aldo Leopold Wilderness Research Institute, USDA Forest Service; email: JIMMY GAUDRY is the Wilderness and Wild & Scenic River program manager, Northern Region, USDA Forest Service; email: BILL HODGE is the executive director of the Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation; email: HEATHER MACSLARROW is the executive director of the Society for Wilderness Stewardship; email: MICHELLE MITCHELL is the director of Recreation, Wilderness, Heritage, and Volunteer Resources, Southern Region, USDA Forest Service; email: NANCY TAYLOR is the Wilderness, Wild & Scenic Rivers, Congressionally Designated Areas program manager, Pacific Northwest Region, USDA Forest Service; email:

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References Ansell, C., and A. Gash. 2008. Collaborative Governance in Theory and Practice. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory 18(4): 543–571. doi:10.1093/jopart/mum032 %J Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory. Boyst, B. 2020. With Collaboration We Can Overcome Challenges Together. International Journal of Wilderness 26(2): 12–15. Cerveny, L. K., M. M. Derrien, and A. B. Miller. 2020. Shared Stewardship and National Scenic Trails: Building on a Legacy of Partnerships. International Journal of Wilderness 26(2): 18–33. Day, H. 2011. Developing Successful Wilderness Stewardship Partnerships (Professional Paper). Environmental Studies. Missoula, MT: The University of Montana. doi:Available at URL: Hagmann, J., and E. Chuma. 2002. Enhancing the Adaptive Capacity of the Resource Users in Natural Resource Management. Agricultural Systems 73: 23–39. doi:10.1016/S0308-521X(01)00098-1. Hagmann, J. R., E. Chuma, K. Murwira, M. Connolly, and P. Ficarelli. 2002. Success Factors in Integrated Natural Resource Management R & D Lessons from Practice. Conservation Ecology 5(2): 29. Myers, C. G., and D. Hunger. 2006. Components of and Barriers to Building Successful Interagency Wilderness Citizen Stewardship Programs. International Journal of Wilderness 12(3): 33–36. Pavlovich, K., and K. Krahnke. 2012. Empathy, Connectedness and Organisation. Journal of Business Ethics 105(1): 131–137. doi:10.1007/s10551-011-0961-3. USDA Forest Service. 2004. Wilderness Stewardship: 10-Year Wilderness Stewardship Challenge. Washington, DC. doi:Available at URL: FS/10YWSC%20Brochure.pdf. USDA Forest Service. 2018. Toward Shared Stewardship across Landscapes: An Outcome-Based Investment Strategy. Washington DC. doi:Available at URL: Wald, D. M., E. A. Segal, E. W. Johnston, and A. Vinze. 2017. Understanding the Influence of Power and Empathic Perspective-Taking on Collaborative Natural Resource Management. Journal of Environmental Management 199: 201–210. doi: Wilderness Advisory Group. 2009. Creating Shared Stewardship of the Wilderness Resource through Partnerships and Volunteers: The Top 10 Partnership Challenges and Solutions. Unpublished Report: Forest Service. doi:Available at URL: Yasmi, Y., H. Schanz, and A. Salim. 2006. Manifestation of Conflict Escalation in Natural Resource Management. Environmental Science & Policy 9(6): 538–546.


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August 2021 | Volume 27, Number 2 | International Journal of Wilderness



International Journal of Wilderness | August 2021 | Volume 27, Number 2

Hanging Lake. Photo credit © Victoria Carodine and 5280 Magazine August 2021 | Volume 27, Number 2 | International Journal of Wilderness



A Pandemic Inspired Research Agenda on the Wilderness Experience by HOWARD SMITH, RICHARD DISCENZA, and ROBERT DVORAK

Some 20-plus years ago the US Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Research Station convened a three-day workshop in Missoula, Montana, that was destined to bear remarkable fruit about visitor use density effects on the wilderness experience (Freimund and Cole 2001). In the years following this conference, United States and global populations grew abundantly, personal digital technology exploded, rural/agrarian lands

Howard Smith

were converted for commercial and housing purposes, and divisive political forces challenged any consensus about future conservation efforts and the protection of wildlands. This tumultuous period was capped in 2020 by a world-wide pandemic (United Nations 2020) that quarantined people inside while simultaneously driving them outdoors, when allowed, to seek recreation and solace. How many wilderness managers

Richard Discenza

and advocates have experienced first-hand the unanticipated perturbations of Covid-19? Visitor use of pristine and beloved natural areas has soared (Rott 2020), especially in urbanaccessible wildlands, and with higher visitor demand comes numerous questions about future wilderness management. This paper explores the implications of these changes through an agenda of applied research. 72

Robert Dvorak International Journal of Wilderness | August 2021 | Volume 27, Number 2

Figure 1 – Ft. Ebey National Historic Reserve in Washington state.

A Research Agenda In 56 years after passage of the Wilderness Act of 1964, we have seen the U.S. population increase 72% from 1964 (192 million) to 2020 (331 million estimated) whereas the global population more than doubled during this same period (3.3 billion in 1964; 7.8 billion estimated 2020) (Worldometer 2020). Designated wilderness acreage in the U.S. during this period grew from 9.1 million acres in 1964 to 111 million acres in 2020 but more than 100 million “pristine” acres remain unprotected (Wilderness Society 2020). World population growth, which directly affects U.S. wilderness quality (e.g., via air and water pollution; climate change), outpaces wilderness acreage increase in the U.S. and large swaths of quality wilderness acreage in the U.S., and globally, remain at risk. These statistics add structure concerning what visitors to parks, wildlands and wilderness know intuitively, suggested in Table 1, as they fight for parking, or after they have taken public transportation only to discover that trails, parks, paths, picnic tables, bike lanes, overlooks, pull-outs, lakes, beaches, restrooms, play equipment, pet areas, hot springs, rivers, campsites, ski runs, docks and all other manner of recreational resources are being used to capacity, and beyond. Population continues to be a primary unrelenting threat to our preserves and solitude (Hollenhorst and Jones 2001); a threat that is seemingly beyond the control of wilderness and natural resources managers. August 2021 | Volume 27, Number 2 | International Journal of Wilderness


It is ironic to note that the global pandemic could have a positive impact on wilderness; even though the virus is rarely viewed as anything other than detrimental. Covid-19 ultimately may motivate society to protect additional wilderness and thus arises the need for wildernessrelated studies. Table 2 presents an applied research agenda with emphasis on seven focus areas to guide future investigations, and examples of potential management/policy issues to be addressed within each focus area. These examples are not exhaustive; they illustrate the plethora of important issues deserving further study.

Connecting People & Places There may be no more compelling issue facing conservation than that of connecting people with wilderness (Van Horn and Hausdoerffer 2017). And, there is an enormous challenge ahead in linking young age groups with wildness (Boyd 2014). As one noted naturalist/philosopher observed, “They are hive creatures now, far more so than generations past, fiercely attached to their social network, which is a large part of their identity” (Tonino 2014). By definition, wilderness is a place where technology is eschewed and tranquility coveted, which translates to a fundamental disconformity when people, of any age, bring technology along. Below the surface of this digital reality, a perplexing conundrum deserves further examination. What is the probability that public-mandated regulations can alter young recreationists proclivity to carry technology given that such technology essentially defines who they are? How can

Table 1 – Ebey’s Landing National Historic Reserve


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Table 2 – A Pandemic Inspired Applied Research Agenda

such policies be enforced? What incentives

media can be reconciled. Cell phone cover-

encourage a digitally-free experience when

age is limited in many wilderness areas, but

so many recreational technologies employ

that does not prevent people from bringing in

electronically based applications? When is

smartphones for play lists, three-dimensional

technology so assimilated within a piece of

maps, and other microelectronic magic. Satel-

equipment that it is no longer primarily tech-

lite phones that offer connection to society

nology, but instead simply one component of

can be invasive even if they are seldom used

a larger piece of equipment and experience?

(Kerosote 2004). Sheer presence of a technol-

Research should explore whether the divide between wilderness boundaries and social

ogy may encourage users to take more risks than they might otherwise do if a lifeline is

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not available. In an overview of distraction

derness; an irony considering that he made his

research (caused by smartphones and similar

living as a guide and author of eye-catching

technology), Dustin, Amerson, Rose and Lepp

photographic images.

(2019) report that technologies are detrimental

It is very difficult to manufacture more

to higher order cognitive functioning while

wilderness, yet each year demand for wilder-

undermining wilderness experiences and

ness access spirals upward. This conundrum

opening users to mental blunders.

could be addressed through research that

Connecting people and places also per-

broadens, or reconceptualizes, wilderness and

tains to society’s desire to be inclusive and

the wilderness/wildness duality. Authorities

equitable. The U.S. supports the idea that all

such as Leopold (1949) and Roderick F. Nash

people should have equal access to enjoy wil-

(1967) conclude that wilderness is self-willed;

derness. Despite this belief, recreational use

wilderness represents land that cannot be

statistics (Scott and Lee 2018) report inequality

controlled while wildness has the capacity for

for those with lower economic means and/

renewal (cf. Van Horn and Hausdoerffer2017).

or for those whose families have no legacy of

Robert Michael Pyle (2017) posits that wildness

experiencing wilderness. Research should be

resides along “a great, big continuum.” Toward

focused on discerning which programs can be

the farthest end of this continuum lies wilder-

expanded to support diversity of experience

ness where the purity of wild experience is

and methodologies for channeling interested

unassailable. At the opposite end are more

age groups (particularly the young to create a

common places lacking wilderness quality;

sense of legacy) toward appropriate opportu-

they are unable to qualify for designation but


are also able to provide inspired moments of

Reconceptualizing Wilderness Jack Turner’s insights on the evolving conceptualization of wilderness in The Abstract Wild (1996), drawing on the work of Arne Naess (cf. Drengson, 2005), underscores how the onslaught of unbridled population growth and economic development renders wilderness ephemeral. Modernity is making wilderness increasingly abstract. Turner lamented his personal contributions to destroying what Walter Benjamin (1968) termed the “aura” of wilderness by disseminating photographic/digital images. He lambasted rising tourism as well as curated experiences that drive the wildness out of wil-


wildness. Given our relative inability to produce more wilderness, it is still possible to simulate wildness. Researchers could investigate new strategies for expanding wildness by focusing on ways to balance how wildness approximates wilderness. Perhaps natural areas that do not qualify for wilderness status might receive designation as semi-wilderness. Under the right circumstances – weather, time of day/night, season, or other factor – it is conceivable that an individual might have a wilderness moment in a highly populated setting (e.g., Central Park) just as remote non-wilderness areas offer a setting where wilderness is approximated.

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Although the road to wilderness designation is seldom an easy one, the path to wildness might be more promising if our policymakers and managers reimagined the possibilities for wilderness (Hollenhorst and Jones 2001). The ecosystems and landscapes that form the U.S. National Park System were relatively easy candidates for preservation due to their highly visible, charismatic qualities. Many wilderness areas could qualify for national park status if more people could access their beauty. But by designating parcels as national park quality, the very wild character we seek to preserve faces dramatically higher visitor use. Research could explore methods for enabling visitors to perceive wildlands through a new lens (Rudzitis and Johansen 1991). Contemplate a 100,000-acre parcel of almost treeless high desert, or prairie. The challenge is finding ways to imbue this land with a visitor experience that approximates charismatic national parks. Perhaps a central theme is “a quality wild experience.” Studies could determine how to create a system of non-charismatic wildlands that rival/exceed the attention given to national parks. Instead of campgrounds that cram people into a small area, assume that a campground is developed with the idea that families have privacy. Offer an extensive system of cabins/huts that enable visitors to leave recreational equipment at home. Deliver meaningfully expanded educational programs that engage attendees. Study the preferences and predispositions of different age groups as well as different interest groups (McCool 2001). Involve participants so that they identify with wildness and will seek out similar offerings in the future (Borrie and Birzell 2001).

Buffering the Charismatic Protected Areas Research should explore the relative value of expanding buffers to wilderness and charismatic national parks. National forests (193 million acres) have often served as de facto buffers to the national parks (85 million acres). An example is the Bridger-Teton and Shoshone National Forests of nearly 3.5 and 2.4 million acres respectively which protect Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, especially through the 585,238-acre Teton Wilderness and 704,274-acre Washakie Wilderness. A critical research question is whether land surrounding national forests can be expanded to improve the first line of defense. Is there value in converting portions of national forest into some other higher-than-national-forest status? The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) oversees 260 wilderness areas and 491 wilderness study areas which provide a means to semi-protect wildlands integral to the National Wilderness Preservation System (BLM 2021). The BLM manages 12.6 million acres of land that could be converted to wilderness status. In addition to the wilderness study areas, the BLM protects wildness through the Wild and Scenic River Act (200 rivers of which 81 have been officially designated as Wild and Scenic), monuments and conservation areas (11.9 million acres with 28 national monuments and 17 national conservation areas), and National Scenic and Historic Trails (6,000 miles of trails). Add the state parks and state lands to the preceding tally and it is impressive that so much, and in the minds of others “so little,” land has been protected.

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Studies could explore the potential value of expanded buffering. What compromises would have to be made in the definition of wilderness to advance a new paradigm of urban-accessible wilderness? Should compromises be made to the criteria defining wilderness in urban-accessible areas? Can we alter the public mindset that assumes wilderness only occurs when there is inarguable scenic beauty and where humans are only visitors?

Mediating Threats to Wilderness A paucity of management and policy research exists about mediating new threats to wilderness. The U.S. continues a reactionary approach to environmental threats rather than deploying a systematic and comprehensive response (Sikdar 2019). Some argue that limited progress is due to traditional advocacy for logging, mining, and grazing (Du Pisani 2006). Inadequate staffing within federal and state agencies also hampers the ability for government to effectively address diverse multiple-use expectations. Expanding research into methods for mediating wilderness threats could enable managers and policymakers to act more proactively with a future focus. For example, it is commonly

Figure 2 – Mt. Rainier National Park.


International Journal of Wilderness | August 2021 | Volume 27, Number 2

Table 3 – Mt. Rainier National Park

acknowledged that urban development will translate to higher use on wilderness and wildland resources. Yet, more instances of evidence-based research results are needed that provide sound guidance about how to ascertain projected and real impacts from proposed developments (Boller, Hunziker, Comedera, Elsassen and Krebs 2010). Consider the natural purity of rainforest within the Olympic Peninsula of Washington state. The Hoh Rainforest is reputed to have such a silent milieu that it is viewed as one of the, if not the, quietest places in the U.S. An advocacy organization – One Square Inch (cf onesquareinch. org) – was founded to protect the “soundscape” of the Olympic National Park’s wilderness which had been registered as 100% non-natural noise free. The advocacy organization collaborated with various partners, encouraging airlines with international in-bound Seattle flights to maintain a no-fly zone. Violations have occurred, but for the most part sacred silence was maintained until the U.S. Navy expanded its fleet of “growler” jets. How was the problem allowed to occur? Had research identified effective processes for wilderness managers to follow in the event of planned stressors to their natural areas, it is possible that One Square Inch and Olympic National Park would not be responding to noise invasion after the fact.

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Right to Access Nature and Wildness The so-called “rights-of-nature” movement supported by the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature (2011) maintains that nature has rights in the same manner that human beings have rights. Countries such as Bolivia, Columbia, Ecuador, India, and New Zealand have witnessed legal challenges by advocates promoting an Earth-rights policy. An informative example is New Zealand which in 2017 granted legal personhood to the Whanganui River (Roy 2017). In line with the proposition that nature possesses certain inalienable rights, research into wilderness issues could meaningfully explore the concept of U.S. citizens’ rights to access wilderness areas. Many supremely attractive natural settings are already enduring over-tourism (Steen Jacobsen, Iversen and Hem, 2019) as documented in Table 4 for Hanging Lake, Colorado. When demand for visitation exceeds prudent use rationing, citizens will-be/are-being turned away. Consequently, evidence-based analyses should address the issues of who gets to access wildlands and when. Rationing methodologies usually utilize frameworks to balance use with preservation and conservation. Eventually a sufficient number of citizen “owners” will be prevented from visiting or using their natural assets and that will underline that capacity frameworks are insufficient to protect citizen rights. Research could foster ingenious strategies to limit use while honoring right-to-use. For example, one approach might acknowledge that every citizen (on birth or naturalization) receives the right to one (1) multi-day visit to each national park and national wilderness in their lifetime.

Table 4 – Hanging Lake Colorado


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Figure 3 – Olympic National Park from Ebey Reserve

Citizens may seek ways to visit some natural assets more than once; but they are guaranteed to access each asset once in their lives. Much like the Social Security Administration manages various health and socioeconomic benefits, a federal entity or contractual partner, could administer the natural area/wilderness benefits for each citizen. Perhaps each citizen is allocated a ticket/ permit or other document, possibly a “Heritage voucher,” that verifies the right to use each park, national forest and associated natural area.

Building A Global Perspective Global collaboration could substantially increase wilderness opportunities for all people even though political issues have tended to present barriers that obstruct partnerships and that work against creating basic standards, best practices and aspirations promoting national/regional/ local autonomy and character (IUCN 2021). Ironically, scientific substance, knowledge, and pragmatic know-how for saving endangered species have evolved significantly in a short period of time, yet our socio-political structures essential to implementing environmental- and speciessaving changes continue to lag. The inspiring set of international societies and conferences dedicated to resurrecting and maintaining wildlife continues to raise optimism that further loss of life or wilderness can be prevented. With the impressive technological tools, insightful findings from bench research and field studies, as well as the body of evidence-based knowledge at our disposal, we are sufficiently August 2021 | Volume 27, Number 2 | International Journal of Wilderness


prepared, on a technical basis, to address the

will undoubtedly remain to be negotiated.

preservation of wildness and wilderness. Yet,

But, the first steps, often “baby-steps,” are

across the globe we are culturally unable to

elemental in gravitating toward large-scale

reconcile our ambitious economic and mate-

research-based reform. In this regard,

rial appetites with the concepts of ecosystem

research comes full circle. For the immediate

protection and conservation.

future, countries could forge alliances where

A vibrant research agenda should address

parks/forest/ocean scientists and managerial

the balance of our global demographic and

personnel rotate among different multinational

economic growth with preservation of life.

options. In this manner, cross-country col-

Edward O. Wilson (2002) characterized the

laboration and sharing of scientific experts

challenge to save our dying world this way:

are a fundamental start in disseminating

“Science and technology led us into this

knowledge and experience while transmitting

bottleneck. Now science and technology

best practices.

must help us find our way through and out.” This clarion call often seems to be ignored by world leaders. Research could elucidate more effective grassroots and community-based strategies based on social media platforms. These research-based approaches effectively respond to Wilson’s urging; that is, to use powerful social media technology to effect change in saving our planet. Buoyed by a research-informed global movement, action might ignite at local and regional levels. For example, collaborative cross-country research could validate essential requirements to build a Canada-United States-Mexico Pacific Rim ecosystem running down the spine of each country. This could become a model for a North America-South America Rim ecosystem. Using these models, other countries around the globe could conceive of their own ecosystem alliances that bridge boundaries while maintaining national sovereignty. Although ecosystem partnerships and alliances could bring a more wholistic ecosystem approach to conservation, important hurdles 82

Wilderness in the 22nd Century Even as the wild frontier pushed west and as Lewis and Clark made their historic trek, some began to envision an inevitable end to wilderness in the U.S. What are the prospects for wilderness as we begin to look forward to the next century? For the remainder of this century wilderness-centered research is likely to remain focused on ecosystems. How can we build beyond the confines of wilderness to create ecosystems that provide substantial diversity and a context within which living things can cope with the onslaught of climate change? The next big wilderness experience could lie in space travel, and democratization beyond a minority of wealthy people. Research should substantiate the clarion warning of Covid19: too many people exceed the carrying capacity of our earthly sphere. As people and wildlife populations collide, inevitably we will experience migration of extraordinarily deadly viruses across species lines that will make Covid-19 seem like a common cold. A potent

International Journal of Wilderness | August 2021 | Volume 27, Number 2

virus might return global population to levels extant some 100-200+ years ago. If this occurs, will the surviving population use the opportunity to rewild the globe? Or, will the focus be on catching back up to where things left on before the contagion brought its brutal finality. Researchers can explore when the tipping point occurred in the loss of U.S. wilderness and then correlate this with the demographics at that time. Under what parameters does a pandemic become an unfortunate and sorrowful point for rewilding and establishing new wilderness boundaries? What are the likely probability that an enlightened, but dramatically reduced, population will not repeat egregious environmental degradation that cultivates rampant viruses?

Looking Toward the Future When the post-pandemic period arrives, enormous value will to be gained by learning from the pandemic itself. In early 2020, citizens of the United States went to ground reaching for seclusion, prevention, and protection from the virus. Nonetheless, quarantine, confinement and isolation seemingly had a 6-month half-life before people began ignoring recommended best practices to prevent viral infection. Discovery of vaccines at the end of 2020 contributed to a sense that the end of the pandemic could be near. Yet, by the time the vaccine was being distributed in late 2020, there was no well-functioning vaccine distribution system despite prior forewarning. In so many respects, like Nero, we essentially fiddled while Rome burned.

Now is the perfect time to recommit our wilderness leaders, managers, scientists, policy makers and advocates to bold and incisive actions that are informed by applied research. By establishing the Wilderness Act of 1964, our society confirmed that wilderness and wildland resources are highly treasured. These resources are too valuable to repeat the lack of implementation planning, foot-dragging and administrative confusion that accompanied the pandemic. Now is the perfect time to recommit our wilderness leaders, managers, scientists, policy makers and advocates to bold and incisive actions that are informed by applied research.

HOWARD SMITH is a professor in the Milgard School of Business at the University of Washington Tacoma: RICHARD DISCENZA a Professor and Dean Emeritus at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs: email: ROBERT DVORAK is editor-in-chief of IJW and professor in the Department of Recreation, Parks, and Leisure Services Administration at Central Michigan University: email:

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References Benjamin, W. 1968. Illuminations. New York: Schocken Books. Boller, F, M. Hunziker, M. Conedera, H. Elsasser, and P. Krebs.2010. Fascinating Remoteness: The Dilemma of Hiking Tourism Development in Peripheral Mountain Areas. Mountain Research and Development 30(4), 320-331, (1 November 2010). Borrie, W. T., and R. M. Birzell. 2001. Approaches to measuring quality of the wilderness experience. In: Freimund, W.A.,Cole, D.N., 2001. Visitor use density and wilderness experience: proceedings; 2000 June 1-3; Missoula, MT. Proc. RMRS-P-20. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station:29-38. Boyd, D. 2014. It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens. New Haven: Yale University Press. Bureau of Land Management. 2021.What we manage. Drengson, A. 2005. The Selected Works of Arne Naess. San Francisco: The Foundation for Deep Ecology. Du Pisani, D. P. 2006. Sustainable development – historical roots of the concept. Environmental Sciences 3(2): 83-96. Dustin, D. K. Amerson, J. Rose, and A. Lepp. 2019. The cognitive costs of distracted hiking. International Journal of Wilderness 25(3): 12-23. Freimund, W. A. and D. N. Cole. 2001. Visitor use density and wilderness experience: Proceedings; 2000 June 1-3; Missoula, MT. Proc. RMRS-P-20. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature. 2011. The Rights of Nature, The Case for a Universal Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth released on April,20, 2011 by the Global Exchange, the Council of Canadians, The Pachamama Alliance, and Fundación Pachamama (cf. accessed 12/19/20) Hollenhorst, S. J., and C. D. Jones. 2001. Wilderness solitude: beyond the social-spatial perspective. In: Freimund, W.A.,Cole, D.N., 2001. Visitor use density and wilderness experience: proceedings; 2000 June 1-3; Missoula, MT. Proc. RMRS-P-20. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station:56-61. International Union for Conservation of Nature 2021. Kerasote, T. 2004. Out There: In the Wild in a Wired Age. Stillwater, MN: Voyageur Press. Leopold, A. 1949. A Sand County Almanac. New York: Oxford University Press. McCool, S. F. 2001. Limiting recreational use in wilderness: research issues and management challenges in apprising their effectiveness. In: Freimund, W.A.,Cole, D.N., 2001. Visitor use density and wilderness experience: proceedings; 2000 June 1-3; Missoula, MT. Proc. RMRS-P-20. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. Murry, J. 2017. Hanging Lake visitors are up 81 percent. Is it being loved to death? The Denver Post. April 17, 2017 Nash, R. F. 1967. Wilderness and the American Mind. New Haven: Yale University Press. Pyle, R.M. 2017. In: Van Horn, G. and Hausdoerffer. 2017. Wildness: Relations of People and Places. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. Rott, N. 2020. ‘We Had to Get Out’ Despite the Risks Business is Booming at National Parks. Morning Edition. National Public Radio. Aired 5:00 a.m. ET, August 11, 2020. Accessed at Roy, E. A. 2017. ‘New Zealand river granted same legal rights as human being’. The Guardian. London, United Kingdom. Retrieved 9 March 2021. Rudzitis, G., and Johansen, H.E. 1991. How important is wilderness? Results from a United States Survey. Environmental Management (15): 227–233. Scott, D. and Lee, K .F .F. 2018. People of color and their constraints to national parks visitation. The George Wright Forum 35(1): 73-82.


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Sikdar, S. 2019. Environmental protection: reactive and proactive approaches. Clean Technologies and Environmental Policy 21: 1–2. Smith, H.L. 2011. The Last Best Adventure. CreateSpace. Steen Jacobsen, J. K., N. M. Iversen, and L. E. Hem. 2019. Hotspot crowding and over-tourism: Antecedents of destination attractiveness. Annals of Tourism Research 76 May. 53-66. Tonino, L. 2014. Not on any map: Jack Turner on our Lost intimacy with the Natural World. The Sun Magazine: Chapel Hill, NC. Accessed at Turner, J. 1996. The Abstract Wild. Tucson: The University of Arizona Press. Van Horn, G. and Hausdoerffer. 2017. Wildness: Relations of People and Places. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. United Nations, 2020. Policy brief: Covid-19 in an urban world. Accessed December 30, 2020 at: sites/ White River National Forest Hanging Lake Capacity Study, 2016, accessed at dot/12291. Wilderness Society. 2020. Wilderness Designation FAQs. Accessed December 29, 2020 at https://www.wilderness. org/articles/article/wilderness-designation-faqs# Wilson, E.O. 2002. The Future of Life. New York: Knopf, xxiv. Worldometer, 2020. Elaboration of data by: United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division. World Population Prospects: The 2019 Revision. (Medium-fertility variant). Accessed at (

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International Journal of Wilderness | August 2021 | Volume 27, Number 2

Local hunter (Khanty people) with hand-made hunting bow using for small game killing. Yamal Penisula, Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug, July 11, 2012. Photo credit © by Konstantin Klokov. August 2021 | Volume 27, Number 2 | International Journal of Wilderness



Wilderness as Nature Conservation Indicator for Regional Policy Making in Russia by VLADIMIR BOCHARNIKOV and EVSEY KOSMAN


ABSTRACT Wilderness has etymologically multiple meanings that results in a wide variety of corresponding approaches for study and interpretations. In this research, pieces of wild nature were considered as spatial units of terrestrial wilderness. Areas of wilderness were evaluated using GIS-based technologies within 45 Russian regions, where territories of wild nature still exist. Three wilderness-related traits were estimated for each federal subject: proportion of wilderness areas, proportion of protected areas, and proportion of protected wilderness. Then structural relationships between the subjects and variability among them were analyzed using standard and recently developed tools of community ecology (metrics of functional trait dispersion and singularity) to establish groups of closely related regions and evaluate specificity (singularity) of each region. Such classification of wilderness status in different regions is a highly important issue for policy makers to clearly determine objectives of nature protection, to shape proper feasible ways of reaching those objectives, and to efficiently manage sites of biodiversity conservation. New tools of wilderness data analysis used in this study can facilitate development of problem-oriented solutions of nature preservation. Specially protected territories are a traditional and highly effective form of nature and environment preservation in Russia. However, the internationally accepted ‘wilderness’ category should also be put into official use in Russia to form a legislative basis for preserving large territories in Siberia, the Far East and Arctic, and still existing patches of wild nature in other regions, mainly in the European part of Russia.


International Journal of Wilderness | August 2021 | Volume 27, Number 2

Vladimir Bocharnikov

Evsey Kosman

Wilderness The concept of wilderness is

Our current research is aimed at the

an environmental philosophy that emerged

presentation of integral approaches and

and has been primarily developed in North

metrics to assess anthropogenic effects on

America. Moreover, many central topics and

wilderness in different regions of Russia. We

approaches of wilderness clearly reflect a

employ recently developed techniques to

North American perspective and environmen-

study functional variability of ecological com-

tal issues (Drenthen and Keulartz 2014). An

munities (Scheiner et al. 2017; Kosman et al.

intensive constantly growing anthropogenic

2019) with the idea to evaluate the extent of

pressure on wilderness persisted since the

wilderness in Russia at a regional scale and to

second half of the 20th century all around

determine areas with similar features of nature

the world. Huge territories of wilderness have

preservation. The suggested approaches are

been destroyed and continuously replaced by

based on a proper assessment of dissimilarity

industrial, urban, and rural areas. These pro-

between different regions and evenness of

cesses of land transformation have also been

distribution of those dissimilarities. Mapping

accompanied by numerous conflicts between

and differentiation of Russian regions are

economic and social issues, industrial devel-

especially important due to the huge territory

opment and need in biodiversity conservation

of Russia and high heterogeneity of natural

and maintenance of ecosystem services with

conditions, ecological systems, distribution

a special emphasis on the role of wilderness

of human resources and activities, and social

(Sanderson et al. 2002). Russian landscapes

and cultural attributes (Bocharnikov 2017).

provide significant impact on worldwide

In this study, landscapes are considered as

biodiversity of boreal and arctic ecosystems,

geosystems (Sochava 1978), with a hierarchical

support services of those ecosystems, and

physical-geographic taxonomic order, that

thus, are critically important wilderness

need a system-scale research methodol-

areas on the globe (Bukvareva et al. 2019;

ogy for their analyses (Mateo et al. 2019). We

Bocharnikov and Huettmann 2019). Unfor-

intend to suggest basic tools that can facilitate

tunately, recent analyses of the structure of

making decisions of nature conservation that

environmental landscapes in Russian regions

account for a wide range of economic, human,

revealed that since the industrial develop-

social, cultural, environmental and wilder-

ment in the former USSR, considerable

ness factors, and avoid land use conflicts

contrasts still remain between developed and

(Bocharnikov 2016).

wilderness areas. In particular, deployment


of industrial complexes and settlements is frequently planned without a comprehensive analysis and deep understanding of demands of nature preservation that results in conflict between economic development and protection of natural resources (Bityukova 2019).

The Russian Federation consists of republics, krais, oblasts, cities of federal importance, an autonomous oblast and autonomous okrugs, all of which are equal subjects of the Russian Federation. There are eighty-five

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International Journal of Wilderness | August 2021 | Volume 27, Number 2

a – subject code consists of four parts in the following order: (1) the first three letters designate a subject name; (2) signs ‘+’ or ‘-’ indicate ‘positive’ or ‘negative’ singularity, respectively; (3) three digits label subject typology* (see below); (4) the last two letters designate a name of federal district** the subject belongs to (see below); b – wilderness index; c - proportion of officially protected areas of federal importance; d - proportion of protected wilderness. * Typology of federal subjects according to the Social Atlas of Russian regions: 1.1. Federal City; 1.2.0. Oil and gas producing regions; 2.1.0. Developed zone with relatively high income; 2.2.0. Weakly developed zone with relatively high income; 3.1.1. Moderately developed urban industrial region; 3.1.2. Moderately depressed industrial region; 3.1.3. Rural regions. 3.2.0. Weakly developed zone; 4.1.1. Depressed area. 4.1.2. Underdeveloped republics of the South; 4.2.0. Outsiders, poorly developed zone. ** Names of eight federal districts are encoded as follows: Far Eastern (FE), Volga (VL), Siberian (SB), North Caucasian (NC), Northwestern (NW), Central (CN), Ural (UR), Southern (SU).

Table 1 – Attributes and basic parameters of federal subjects of Russia

Figure 1 – Anthropogenic landscape and large federal protected areas within federal districts of Russian territory. Distribution of terrestrial wilderness, protected, urban and rural areas.

federal subjects in Russia, which are grouped into eight federal districts (Figure 1). Each subject of the Russian Federation has its own government and budget, determines regional policy and responsible for industrial development and environment and nature protection in the corresponding region (status of the Russian subjects is rather similar to that of separate states in the USA). Since one of the central objectives of our study is to demonstrate a way of providing information and practical recommendations to persons in charge for both economy and wilderness protection in generally independent subjects, size of the corresponding regional territories does not play any role in making decision how to reach a balance between economic development and nature conservation in a given region.

Original data characterization. Only terrestrial wilderness was considered in the current research initiated in 2015. The research has been focused on a monitoring of wilderness disturbance in Russia due to anthropogenic activity. Forty-five different administrative units (federal subjects) in Russia with still existing patches of wilderness were analyzed (for details see Table 1). Using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) data, we were able to get rather precise quantitative estimates of all off-road and uninhabited (or nearly uninhabited) and anthropogenically disturbed areas with a resolution of 50 thousand hectares (500 square km). Due to a huge territory of Russia, much larger resolution of wilderness (Figure 1) was used comparing with the commonly accepted August 2021 | Volume 27, Number 2 | International Journal of Wilderness


approaches for smaller countries, where the minimum area of wilderness is assumed to be

map of roadless areas (Ibisch et al. 2016). Areas covered by the objects and/or their

5000 acres or 20.2 square km (Carver and Fitz

buffers are shown in Table 2; an extent of


wilderness reduction by every object depends

The GIS data allowed calculation of a wilderness index (Bocharnikov and Egidarev

on its type. The index of anthropogenic disturbance is determined as follows:

2015; Bocharnikov and Huetmann 2019), which is further designated as WI. The WI metric expresses a wilderness proportion of total area and was selected as the leading indicator of wilderness in the current study. In parallel, we also determined a metric of

where n is a total number of objects speci-

anthropogenic disturbance (AD) as a propor-

fied in Table 2 in a given region, OBi is an area

tion of total area ‘occupied’ by a human. Since

affected by one of those objects (Table 2),

WI+AD=1, an accurate evaluation of territories

and TA is a total area of that region. Then the

harmed by anthropogenic activity (AD index)

wilderness index equals

allows for assessment of wilderness. Thus, there is a need in clear definition and proper measuring of all human activities that are assumed to destroy wilderness. The following are human-made objects we accounted for calculating AD index (i.e. objects that reduce

This transparent descriptive parameter

areas of wilderness): populated areas (city,

provides basic assessments of wilderness in

town, village, settlement etc.), industrial zones

different regions. Much more complicated

and infrastructure in their vicinity, agricultural

analysis was performed with two additional

areas, detached units (factory, farm, railway

parameters along with the index of wilderness.

station, port etc.) transportation routes (land

The second parameter is proportion of

roads, railway, waterway, pipeline, power

officially protected areas (PA) of federal impor-

transmission lines etc.), lands adjacent to a

tance in a given administrative unit. The only

water basin (ocean, sea, navigable lake, river

protected areas in Russia (“Specially Protected


Natural Areas”) are territories of nature pres-

Wilderness borders were mainly determined

ervation according to the corresponding 1995

using topographic maps Digital Chart of the

law of the Russian Federation. Under the law,

World Data (DCW) with 1:1000000 scale that

the specially protected natural territories (bio-

were updated from time to time during the

sphere reserves, national parks etc.) represent

period of 2002 – 2015 by Russian company

the areas of land, water and aerial space over

DATA+. The obtained information was much

them containing the natural complexes and

more accurate than that provided by a global

facilities of a special conservation, scientific,


International Journal of Wilderness | August 2021 | Volume 27, Number 2

cultural, esthetic, recreational and health-improving significance. The basic element of protection of this type of territories is the limitation or the absolute prohibition of economic activities on them. The third parameter is proportion of protected wilderness (PW; includes zapovedniks and national parks), which is calculated as ratio of wilderness area within protected territories of federal importance (see previous paragraph) and total area of wilderness in a given administrative unit.

Data analysis Original data included the following three characteristics (n=3) of every subject among 45 considered (k=45): proportions of wilderness (X_1=WI), protected areas (X_2=PA), and protected wilderness (X_3=PW) in a given subject (Table 1). To equally weigh effects of each of the traits X_1, X_2 and X_3, the data were standardized in order to range in [0,1] interval using transformation X_i (→(X_i-min⁡〖X_i 〗 ))⁄((max⁡〖X_i 〗-min⁡〖X_i 〗 ) ), so that min⁡〖X_i 〗 and max⁡〖X_i 〗 (i=1,2,3) were transformed to 0 and 1, respectively. Standard and recently developed tools for study functional variation and biodiversity preservation in community ecology (Scheiner et al. 2017; Kosman et al. 2019) were applied to analysis of wilderness variability in Russia. Three types of data analysis were performed in order (a) to separate all subjects into relatively homogeneous groups based on the UPGMA dendrogram for clustering; (b) to estimate an effective number of different subjects (Scheiner et al. 2017) that is usually much smaller than the actual number of different subjects because some subjects are rather similar and thus can be considered nearly indistinguishable; and (c) to evaluate uniqueness of each subject among all subjects by determining its singularity (Kosman et al. 2019). All

Table 2 – Objects with negative anthropogenic effect on wilderness and their buffer zones (parameters of AD- and WI-indices of anthropogenic disturbance and wilderness, respectively)

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Figure 2– UPGMA dendrogram of relationships between 45 federal subjects of Russia (subjects are encoded as in Table 1). All tips of Nand P-cluster branches are of ‘negative’ and ‘positive’ singularity. TL is a threshold level that results in division of all subjects into 13 groups (including singletons) of closely related ones according to the effective number of different subjects (13.26). Seven such groups (A – G), each consisting of at least 3 subjects (tips of the corresponding branches), are shown.

analyses were based on pairwise distances

of the NTSYSpc package, version 2.2 (Exeter

between subjects S_i and S_j (i,j=1,2,…,45)

Software, Setauket, NY).

calculated with the mean character differ-

Effective number of different subjects

ence (Manhattan distance normalized by the

among the 45 original ones was estimated

number of traits):

with the metric of functional trait dispersion, derived from Scheiner et al.’s (2017) equations 5 and 6 which measured functional trait dispersion determined by the dispersion of

with n=3 in our case. Values of the mcd dis-

species in trait space and measures the effec-

tance range between 0 and 1.

tive number of functionally distinct species

A dendrogram of relationships between the

If k original subjects are compared, then the

subjects were constructed using unweighted

effective number ranges from 1 to k when all

pair group method with arithmetic mean

subjects are ‘identical’ and absolutely different,

(UPGMA dendrogram) with regard to the mcd

respectively. Thus, this indicator expresses an

distance (Figure 2). It generated groups of

extent of variability among the subjects.

similar subjects and reflected the structure

Singularity of every subject was evaluated

present in the matrix of mcd distances

relative to all other subjects (k-1=44) according

between the subjects. The UPGMA dendro-

to Kosman et al. (2019). This estimate is aimed

gram was derived using the SAHN program

at determining an extent of uniqueness of


International Journal of Wilderness | August 2021 | Volume 27, Number 2

each subject in the given set. However, two

wilderness) ranged from 0.5% in Rostov Oblast

subjects with very distinct trait profiles can

to 92% in Chukotka Autonomous Okrug;

be equally distant from all other subjects,

protected areas did not exist in Stavropol Krai,

and thus, equally unique, like two ends of an

whereas the largest proportion of protected

interval from its center. Therefore, two types

areas (PA) was in Altai Republic (12.3%);

of singularity, ‘positive’ and ‘negative’, can be

maximum proportion of protected wilderness

defined with regard to a selected criterion

(PW) was in Republic of Kalmykia (24.4%), but

(e.g. an estimate of a leading parameter). The

wilderness was not protected in 10 federal

proportion of wilderness in total area (X_1=WI,

subjects from 7 federal districts (Table 1).

wilderness index) was chosen as the leading

Clear separation of the set of 45 federal

indicator due to its foremost significance com-

subjects into several groups with strong

paring with other two features. We assumed

hierarchical structure results from the UPGMA

that a level of wilderness less than 25% in a

dendrogram (Figure 2). Each group consists

given subject is insufficient, and immedi-

of subjects with closely related trait profiles

ate intervention of local policy makers is

(similar values of most parameters). There are

needed to increase financing and to improve

two large clusters that consist of subjects with

management of nature conservation in the

proportion of wilderness in total area either

corresponding region. Therefore, a threshold

below or above 25% (N-cluster with WI<0.25,

level of WI=0.25 was selected, so that the

and P-cluster with WI≥0.25, respectively).

singularity of a given subject was considered

There are also six outliers in the bottom of

‘positive’ or ‘negative’, if the singularity of that

the dendrogram. At the lower hierarchical

subject was above or below the threshold

level, the two major clusters of subjects are

level, respectively. The performed analyses of

subdivided into smaller groups, each of which

45 federal subjects revealed huge differences

can be characterized by a specific range of

among them. Effective number of different

either of the three features of the group con-

subjects was 13 among the 45 original ones.

stituents. Groups consisting of three federal

This means that a separation of all 45 federal

subjects at least and their features are show in

subjects into 13 groups of closely related ones

Table 3.

(including singletons) could be well justified.

For example, group A in N-cluster is charac-

Such division into clusters was obtained by

terized by WI values from 0.9 to 21.3, PA - from

grouping subjects at the threshold level of

0 to 1.8, and PW - from 0 to 4.1, whereas group

mcd distance around 0.11 – 0.12 at the UPGMA

C has those parameters in ranges 0.5 - 23.9,

dendrogram (Figure 2).

0.5 - 2.6, and 5.8 - 8.4, respectively. Thus,

Results The analyses revealed large differences between the 45 federal subjects of Russia. The wilderness index (WI, proportion of

these two groups of federal subjects are mainly distinguished by the proportion of protected wilderness PW, [0,4.1] versus [5.8,8.4]. For P-cluster, group D differs considerably from group E by the proportion of wilderness August 2021 | Volume 27, Number 2 | International Journal of Wilderness


with WI values from 5.7 to 59.9 and from 75.7 to 92.0, respectively, while all three parameters WI, PA and PW distinguish subjects from groups E and F (Table 3). The highest values of proportion of protected wilderness (PW) strongly distinguished federal subjects in group G (as well as all six outliers) from all other subjects (Table 3). Importantly, the grouping of federal subjects based on the selected criteria does not necessarily mean that those subjects have similar geographic, climatic or any other environmental conditions. Moreover, their geography and climate could be very different, and they could be far away from each other. For example, group C includes mountainous Republic of Dagestan in the south-east of the European part of Russia and plain Republic of Karelia with much cooler climate in the north-west of the European part; distance between these subjects is about 2,800 km. Two other federal subjects from this cluster are Rostov Oblast from the steppe zone in the south of the European part of Russia and Perm Krai from the boreal forest zone in the northern part of Ural Mountains (north-east of the European part). The extent of specificity of every subject estimated with the singularity measure is shown in Figure 3. Separate clusters of closely related subjects were characterized by a narrow range of either positive or negative singularity values. The most positively singular federal subjects were Altai Republic (23.7), Republic of Khakassia (21.3), and Nenets Autonomous Okrug (19.9), whereas

Table 3 – Groups of federal subjects and ranges of the subject parameters within them. a – groups were determined according to the UPGMA dendrogram (Fig. 2); number of subjects of ‘positive’ (+) or ‘negative’ (−) singularity within a group are shown in parentheses; b – range of wilderness index for subjects within a group; c – range of proportion of officially protected areas of federal importance for subjects within a group; d - range of proportion of protected wilderness for subjects within a group; e - range of absolute value of singularity for subjects within a group.


International Journal of Wilderness | August 2021 | Volume 27, Number 2

Figure 3– Map of singularity of federal subjects of Russia.

Figure 4– Federal subjects of Russia with negative and positive singularity

August 2021 | Volume 27, Number 2 | International Journal of Wilderness


the worst situation with wilderness was indicated by foremost negative singularity in Republic of Kalmykia (-21.8), Kemerovo Oblast (-21.4), and Republic of Bashkortostan (-19). All these extremely singular subjects belong to the branch of outliers in the bottom of the dendrogram (Figure 2).

Discussion Protection and maintenance of all natural resources is one of the central issues considered by policy makers all around the world. One of such resources is ‘wilderness’ that denotes specificity and format of territorial protection of landscapes, ecosystems, and certain areas identified in accordance with national criteria in various regions of the world. Despite ‘wilderness’ as an international category, Russian environmental standards are based on different categories such as ‘biosphere reserves’, ‘national parks’ etc. that have strict protection regimes. We considered elements of wilderness in Russian regions, including within protected areas, in order to partially adjust the Russian data to the international standards that can facilitate comparison of various aspects of environment preservation and wildlife conservation in different countries (Figures 5, 6). Russia is the world’s largest country by total area (land and water), the first by land and the second after Canada by water area. The country is very heterogeneous by most economic, social, cultural, environmental, geographic and climatic parameters, so that tools and approaches to govern and develop different regions should be adjusted to a regional specificity. The need to maintain the ecological stability of natural ecosystems and preserve biodiversity is an important

Figure 5 – Polar Bear Urcus arctos on Arctic sea cost close to Novosibirsk Islands, Aug. 17, 2005. Credit by Victoria Kshesinskaya.


International Journal of Wilderness | August 2021 | Volume 27, Number 2

task of the state, the practical implementation

three fundamental wilderness features and

of which is carried out on the territory of the

evaluated a state of wilderness in different

Russian Federation (Bocharnikov and Egidarev

federal subjects. The idea was to divide a


highly heterogeneous set of subjects into homogeneous groups, whereas the groups

...amid highly variable regional structure of Russia, the policy and tools of environment protection needs regional adjustments or even completely different approaches based on local specificity and requirements. Obviously, amid highly variable regional structure of Russia, the policy and tools of environment protection needs regional adjustments or even completely different approaches based on local specificity and requirements. In our study, we selected

themselves are well-distinguished from each other. Such grouping of regions may allow similar approaches to wilderness preservation for closely related federal subjects. For example, values of the wilderness index (WI) ranged in a very narrow interval from 8.6 to 9.1 for five federal subjects in cluster D (Amur Oblast, Arkhangelsk Oblast, Jewish Autonomous Oblast, Irkutsk Oblast and Zabaykalsky Krai), though the corresponding regions are very distant with distances of about 8,000 kms from Arkhangelsk Oblast in the north-

Figure 6– Common Grouse Lyrurus tetrix at spring nesting time bird games. Yugan State Nature Reserve. Western Siberia, March 12, 2016. Credit by Eugene Strelnikov.

August 2021 | Volume 27, Number 2 | International Journal of Wilderness


west of the European part of Russia to Amur

singularity can be an alternative description of

Oblast and Jewish Autonomous Oblast in the

wilderness status on the entire Russia territory

Russian Far East. Therefore, urgent decisions

(see Bocharnikov and Egidarev 2016).

and similar efforts of policy makers have to

Our findings demonstrate the usefulness

be undertaken in all these federal subjects to

of the suggested techniques to comparative

protect still remaining patches of wilderness

analysis of nature preservation in different

(Figure 4).

regions, especially in the eastern part of

We applied recently developed approaches

Russia (Siberia and Far East; Figure 8). In

to biodiversity preservation (Scheiner et al.

particular, the singularity metric seems a suit-

2017; Kosman et al. 2019) to the regions of

able indicator of extent of wilderness status

Russia considered as separate elements that

in a given region with respect to all other

can be compared with each other based on

regions in question. Nevertheless, we intend

the indicators of wilderness. One of such

to continue testing appropriateness of these

indicators was the singularity metric (Kosman

approaches with larger sets of wilderness-

et al. 2019), so that an extent of wilderness in

related traits that allow more comprehensive

terms of singularity was estimated for each

characterization and evaluation of different

region under consideration (Figure 4).

aspects of nature conservation.

The map in Figure 7 shows the borders

It can be noted that the economic space

of 13 major economic macro-regions of the

of Russia is represented by geographically

Russian Federation. Distribution of the regional

oriented sectors: North and North-West of the

Figure 7– Economic regions of Russia: 1 – Northern; 2 - Northwestern; 3 - Central; 4 - Volga-Vyatka economic region; 5 - Central Black Earth economic region; 6 - Volga economic region; 7 - North Caucasus economic region; 8 - Ural economic region; 9 - West Siberian economic region; 10 - East Siberian economic region; 11 - Far Eastern economic region; 12 - Kaliningrad economic region; 13 - Crimea economic region. Proportion (%) of wilderness area (if exists) within a region is also shown.


International Journal of Wilderness | August 2021 | Volume 27, Number 2

Figure 8– Map of Eastern Russia demonstrates the most wilderness within Ural, Siberia, and Far East regions, where traditional life and activity of indigenous peoples are still supported.

European part of Russia, Central and Southern Russia, the Ural-Volga region, and huge territory of Siberia and Far East in the Asian part of Russia. The latter areas located to the east of the Ural Mountains are generally sparsely populated and the least economically developed territories of Russia with about 50% of saved wild nature. Most Russian wilderness (91.4%) is concentrated in its Asian part, mostly covered by tundra, boreal and mountain landscapes (Bocharnikov 2019). In the European part of Russia, still existing spots of wild nature are extremely limited except the North and North-Eastern regions with wilderness up to 50% (Figure 7). A special consideration is needed in study of wilderness and its protection along borders between different countries (for example, the thousand kilometers of border between China and Russia). Comparison of existing protected areas in China and Russia demonstrated considerable differences between these two countries due to, perhaps, natural distinctions in social and economic activities as well as in interior policy of the neighboring countries (Bocharnikov et al. 2020). A proper evaluation and effective management of wilderness at adjacent areas of different countries need also universal or at least compatible tools and methodology; a few such new approaches were suggested in our study.

August 2021 | Volume 27, Number 2 | International Journal of Wilderness


Conclusions Specially protected territories are a traditional and highly effective form of nature and environment preservation in Russia. However, the internationally accepted ‘wilderness’ category should also be put into official use in Russia to form a legislative basis for preserving large territories in Siberia, Far East and Arctic, and still existing patches of wild nature in other regions. Classification of wilderness status in different regions is a highly important issue for policy makers to clearly determine objectives of nature protection, to shape proper feasible ways of reaching those objectives, and to efficiently manage sites of biodiversity conservation. New tools of wilderness data analysis used in this study can facilitate development of problem-oriented solutions of nature preservation.

VLADIMIR BOCHARNIKOV is the leading researcher at the lab for wildlife ecology and conservation of the Pacific Institute of Geography Far Eastern Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences; email: vbocharnikov@ EVSEY KOSMAN is a professor at the Institute for Cereal Crops Improvement, School of Plant Sciences and Food Security at Tel Aviv University; email:


International Journal of Wilderness | August 2021 | Volume 27, Number 2

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International Journal of Wilderness | August 2021 | Volume 27, Number 2

Reach for Life. Photo credit © AJ Garcia on Unsplash August 2021 | Volume 27, Number 2 | International Journal of Wilderness



Book Review:

Patrick Kelly, Media And Book Review Editor WILDNESS: RELATIONS OF PEOPLE AND PLACE

Edited by Gavin Van Horn and John Hausdoerffer. 2017. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, Illinois. 272 pp. $30.00 (pb).


International Journal of Wilderness | August 2021 | Volume 27, Number 2

The romantic, Eurocentric ideal of wilderness has been criticized for erasing the relationship of native peoples with the landscape and perpetuating a false and dangerous human-nature dualism. In his essay, “The Trouble with Wilderness, or Getting Back to the Wrong Nature,” environmental historian William Cronon argues that “wilderness poses a serious threat to responsible environmentalism.” Cronon reasons that in idealizing a distant and uninhabited wilderness we run the risk of devaluing and absolving ourselves from responsibility for nature that is closer to home and all around us, thereby leaving ourselves “little hope of discovering what an ethical, sustainable, honorable human place in nature might actually look like.” Picking up the metaphorical gauntlet that Cronon and others had thrown down before the environmental movement, the contributors to Wildness: Relations of People and Place collectively seek to chart a path to the “right” nature. Edited by Gavin Van Horn and John Hausdoerffer, the anthology brings together a diversity of esteemed authors, such as Gary Snyder, Robin Wall Kimmerer, Vandana Shiva, and Roderick Frazier Nash, who share their place-based stories about the interrelationships between humans and wildness. Inspired by Aldo Leopold’s insight that “the weeds in a city lot convey the same lessons as the redwoods,” the book embraces the concept of the relative wild as a way to bridge the human-nature divide and reimagine the role of humans in nature as active participants and co-creators of biodiversity. Celebrating the entire continuum of wildness, the book takes the reader on a journey to such diverse landscapes as Wrangell–St. Elias National Park in Alaska, sacred forests in West Africa, ranchland in rural New Mexico, and urban green spaces in Chicago. The anthology is divided into four parts. In “Wisdom of the Wild,” the authors reflect on the diverse meanings of wildness and share what we can learn from wild systems and processes to enrich our own lives and communities. The “Working Wild” draws our attention to sustainable, local economies that co-exist with – and sometimes even enhance – wild nature. This part also uncovers ways in which rigid implementation of the wilderness ideal can come into conflict with social and ecological manifestations of wildness. Moving along on the spectrum of wildness, we learn about how the more accessible “Urban Wild” can foster transformative connections between people and their nonhuman kin, resulting in mutual healing and social and ecological restoration. Finally, in the “Planetary Wild,” the reader is exposed to diverse visions for how humans can recover and nurture wildness and thrive as respectful members of the community of life. In drawing our attention to degrees of wildness that exist, including in everyday places, the book shows that “wildness is not an all-or-nothing proposition.” Wilderness advocates have historically neglected working landscapes and the built environment, and it is becoming increasingly obvious that all landscapes are critical to conserving and fostering appreciation for wild nature. Wildness: Relations of People and Place cures us of our myopic focus on wilderness and opens our eyes to the wild processes that are unfolding around us. In advocating for wildness everywhere, the book presents a constructive way to move beyond existing disagreements among environmentalists and unite us around the inclusive concept of wildness. REVIEWED BY Tobias Nickel, student in the Masters in Environmental Management program at Western Colorado University; email: August 2021 | Volume 27, Number 2 | International Journal of Wilderness


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SPONSORING ORGANIZATIONS Aldo Leopold Wilderness Research Institute Central Michigan University, Department of Recreation, Parks and Leisure Services Administration SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry The WILD® Foundation USDA Forest Service U.S. Department of the Interior USDI Bureau of Land Management USDI Fish and Wildlife Service USDI National Park Service Wilderness Foundation (South Africa) Wilderness Foundation Global Wilderness Leadership School (South Africa) University of Montana, School of Forestry and Conservation; and, the Wilderness Institute