Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Science (MS)

Degree Name

Environmental Studies

Department or School/College

Environmental Studies Program

Committee Chair

Dan Spencer

Commitee Members

Elizabeth C. Metcalf, Len Broberg


wilderness, ecological restoration, ecological interventions, wilderness management


University of Montana

Subject Categories

Environmental Studies | Natural Resources and Conservation | Natural Resources Management and Policy


Global climate change, land use intensification and increasing development are impacting federal wildernesses in new and unprecedented ways. Ecological restoration is one tool that that wilderness managers are using to combat degradation, though the decision to intervene in wilderness is complicated by the Wilderness Act’s legal mandate to preserve wilderness character and demonstrate managerial restraint. The purpose of this study is to document a baseline of ecological interventions that have occurred in the NWPS over the last five years, and to understand how wilderness managers make decisions related to ecological interventions. I sent a quantitative survey to over five hundred wilderness units to understand the type and degree of interventions taken, and used semi-structured interviews with twelve managers to understand intervention decision-making processes. This is the first study to document the breadth and depth of ecological interventions currently being implemented across the NWPS, and to reveal details about specific intervention proposals including the factors that influenced the decision, the efficacy of the intervention, and the proposer of the project. Results show that wilderness managers are tentative and conflicted about intervening in wilderness, yet management inertia leads to the acceptance of intervention as a wilderness preservation tool. Ecological interventions occurred in 37% of the wilderness units sampled, with the greatest proportion of interventions by agency from the National Park Service. This research highlights a need for consistent approaches to vetting ecological intervention proposals, and for greater agency accountability in documenting interventions. A publically-accessible collection of case studies could create a community of practice for wilderness stewards, while emphasizing best practices for interventions in wilderness.



© Copyright 2017 Lucy A. Lieberman