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Title: Wilderness experiences: what should we be managing for?

Author: Cole, David N.;

Date: 2004

Source: International journal of wilderness. 10(3): 25-27

Publication Series: Miscellaneous Publication

Description: The U.S. Wilderness Act gives wilderness managers a challenging stewardship responsibility: to provide and/or protect opportunities for certain types of human experiences. The act states that wilderness “shall be administered for the use and enjoyment of the American people in such manner as will leave them unimpaired for future use and enjoyment as wilderness.” The significant clause that they are to be enjoyed “as wilderness” is further defined under the definitional characteristics of wilderness. Here wilderness is defined, in part, as an area that “has outstanding opportunities for solitude or a primitive and unconfined type of recreation.” This is all the guidance the Act provides regarding the responsibilities of wilderness managers regarding recreational experiences in wilderness.

Since their primary responsibility is to preserve wilderness character, managers need clear objectives regarding human experiences in wilderness, as well as an understanding of how well those objectives are being attained. Several of the other articles in this issue provide perspective on concepts of solitude, primitive recreation, and unconfined recreation. My concern is whether stewardship objectives should relate most directly to the kinds of experiences people are having in wilderness, their evaluations of those experiences, or their opportunities for certain kinds of experiences. The answer to this question is relevant to how we should monitor and assess wilderness character, as well as the indicators we might adopt in a Limits of Acceptable Change or similar type of wilderness management plan.

Keywords: wilderness, wilderness management, recreation, experiences

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Cole, David N. 2004. Wilderness experiences: what should we be managing for?. International journal of wilderness. 10(3): 25-27


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