Document Type


Publication Title

Science and stewardship to protect and sustain wilderness values: Ninth World Wilderness Congress symposium. Proceedings RMRS-P-64.


U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station

Publication Date



For wilderness managers, the ability to recognize threats and changing conditions is vital. While these threats are typically associated with resource and social conditions, they can also be investigated relative to wilderness relationships. This paper explores how threats and changes may be affecting human relationships with wilderness and the possible implications for management. Previously, threats have been conceptualized as affecting ecosystem integrity or stakeholder values. This paper suggests these conceptualizations should be expanded to also consider the meanings and relationships attributed to wilderness. From such a lens, threats such as global climate change, wildland fire, and invasive species can dramatically influence both the wilderness landscape and the meanings associated with its character. They fundamentally alter the place in ways that conflict with personal histories and previous experiences. Thus, managers must be charged with finding ways to protect and foster these human relationships. Addressing threats to these relationships may also require managers to develop approaches that mitigate or adapt to these relationships over time. These approaches need to proactively define and protect a diversity of meanings and values to ensure ongoing human relationships with wilderness.