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Publication Information

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Title: Wilderness science: A historical perspective

Author: Cole, David N.;

Date: 2014

Source: International Journal of Wilderness. 20(2): 8-13.

Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)

Description: Wilderness is a relatively new and powerful idea that is still finding its footing in the world of science. Although the intellectual history of wilderness can be traced farther back in time (Nash 2001), as a land classification wilderness is less than a century old, and it was just 50 years ago that wilderness was codified in legislation in the United States. While much of the attention over the past 50 years has been given to the growth and development of the National Wilderness Preservation System and the issue of how much and which lands should be protected as wilderness, it is clear that wilderness must be managed and that sound management should be built on a foundation of wilderness science. Without stewardship and management, wilderness designation will not necessarily result in wilderness protection. And without science, management is little more than trial and error, varying with the worldviews and beliefs of whoever happens to have management responsibility at any point in time. Therefore, wilderness science is critical to the success of the wilderness idea. The importance of science to the protection of wilderness values will only increase with time, as the contrast between wilderness and developed lands widens, as the diversity of wilderness values expands, and as the threats to those values intensify.

Keywords: wilderness science, wilderness values

Publication Notes:

  • We recommend that you also print this page and attach it to the printout of the article, to retain the full citation information.
  • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.



Cole, David N. 2014. Wilderness science: A historical perspective. International Journal of Wilderness. 20(2): 8-13.


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