Title

Defining Wilderness Character for the Selway-Bitterroot

Presentation Type

Presentation

Abstract

Wilderness designtation is a historically vague management directive. Some of our longest-standing Wilderness areas, such as the subject of this study, the Selway-Bitterroot, have seen no formal characterization of what specifically is meant by the term and what sort of management it requires. Only recently has the prevailing attitude towards Wilderness focused on active, dynamic management over hands-off or unstructured decision-making. How do we define “Wilderness character,” what the 1964 Wilderness Act calls us to protect? This study formalized some of the physical, biological, structural, and human components that characterize Wilderness and established protocol for future monitoring. The information gathered in this research should educate future Wilderness management decisions and clarify our knowledge of the resource and its components.

The research for this project was done within a formal assessment process developed through the Aldo Leopold Research Institute. Measurable features of Wilderness Character were chosen specific to the Selway-Bitterroot based on guiding language in Wilderness legislation. Aspects of the historical development, human use, natural and biological features, and remoteness of the area were strictly defined and recorded such that they could be monitored in the future. We collected baseline data on several dozen measures of Wilderness Character, such as fire management actions, genetic purity of Westslope Cutthroat Trout, air pollution and outfitter permitting. Though the Selway-Bitterroot was designated over 40 years ago, we used data from 2011 where possible to represent a baseline for monitoring.

This presentation will outline the challenges of defining and monitoring Wilderness Character, describe some of the striking features of the Selway-Bitterroot, and place the lessons of this research into the greater context of land management issues generally. Wilderness research is valuable for both our understanding of non-human dynamics of wild lands and for the improvement of the human systems by which we protect them.

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Apr 12th, 1:40 PM Apr 12th, 2:00 PM

Defining Wilderness Character for the Selway-Bitterroot

UC 331

Wilderness designtation is a historically vague management directive. Some of our longest-standing Wilderness areas, such as the subject of this study, the Selway-Bitterroot, have seen no formal characterization of what specifically is meant by the term and what sort of management it requires. Only recently has the prevailing attitude towards Wilderness focused on active, dynamic management over hands-off or unstructured decision-making. How do we define “Wilderness character,” what the 1964 Wilderness Act calls us to protect? This study formalized some of the physical, biological, structural, and human components that characterize Wilderness and established protocol for future monitoring. The information gathered in this research should educate future Wilderness management decisions and clarify our knowledge of the resource and its components.

The research for this project was done within a formal assessment process developed through the Aldo Leopold Research Institute. Measurable features of Wilderness Character were chosen specific to the Selway-Bitterroot based on guiding language in Wilderness legislation. Aspects of the historical development, human use, natural and biological features, and remoteness of the area were strictly defined and recorded such that they could be monitored in the future. We collected baseline data on several dozen measures of Wilderness Character, such as fire management actions, genetic purity of Westslope Cutthroat Trout, air pollution and outfitter permitting. Though the Selway-Bitterroot was designated over 40 years ago, we used data from 2011 where possible to represent a baseline for monitoring.

This presentation will outline the challenges of defining and monitoring Wilderness Character, describe some of the striking features of the Selway-Bitterroot, and place the lessons of this research into the greater context of land management issues generally. Wilderness research is valuable for both our understanding of non-human dynamics of wild lands and for the improvement of the human systems by which we protect them.