Year of Award


Document Type

Professional Paper

Degree Type

Master of Science (MS)

Degree Name

Resource Conservation

Department or School/College

College of Forestry and Conservation

Committee Chair

Dr. Dane Scott

Commitee Members

Dr. Elizabeth Covelli Metcalf, Dr. Dan Spencer


University of Montana


Climbing in national parks’ wilderness areas has long created tension for mangers between providing recreational opportunities and maintaining wilderness values. This activity presents a challenge to wilderness management as managers try to balance feelings of solitude in wilderness and opportunities for unconfined recreation. Increased interest in climbing in the national parks lead to management considerations to satisfy Director’s Order #41: Wilderness Stewardship (DO41). In October 2013, the National Park Service (NPS) issued Director’s Order #41, Section 7.2, Climbing (DO41, Sec. 7.2), to clarify management of climbing in wilderness. Climbing in designated wilderness requires management due to conflicts between this growing recreational activity and maintenance of the qualities of wilderness character. With the publication of DO41, Sec. 7.2, the NPS has specific mandates for how to manage wilderness climbing. While the Order does provide a directive for the agency, it intentionally leaves room for interpretation to allow the parks to manage according to the specific needs of their park. The objectives of the study were to (1) ascertain what management actions have been implemented by national parks in response to DO41, Sec. 7.2; (2) determine how effective managers judge these actions to be; and (3) collect manager suggestions for improving the implementation of DO41, Sec. 7.2 in the national parks. Collecting online information on climbing in wilderness and conducting telephone interviews with managers experienced with climbing from a sample of national parks where climbing in wilderness is present fulfilled these objectives. The findings articulated that there should be more consistency in presentation of information to the climbing community. Lastly, relationships between the climbing community and National Park Service personnel are essential to effective management of climbing activity.



© Copyright 2018 Kerry E. Sullivan