Wilderness Character Monitoring

Both the Wilderness Act of 1964 and Montana’s Wilderness Study Area Act (1977) require that land management agencies maintain wilderness character in wilderness areas as it existed at the time of designation. The purpose of monitoring wilderness character is to improve wilderness stewardship by providing managers and the public a tool to evaluate how wilderness character is changing over time and how stewardship actions impact wilderness character. In collaboration with local NGOs and community groups, starting in 2009, the Wilderness Institute partnered with the Forest Service to design citizen-friendly field-based wilderness character monitoring protocols, and then implemented these protocols across all seven of Montana’s congressionally designated Wilderness Study Areas (Sapphire, Blue Joint, West Pioneer, Ten Lakes, Hyalite Porcupine Buffalo Horn, Big Snowy Mountains and Middle Fork Judith River).

In 2013, the Wilderness Institute’s citizen monitoring program implemented this protocol in the Anaconda Pintler and Welcome Creek Wilderness Areas, and in 2014 we conducted critical monitoring and stewardship work in the Selway Bitterroot Frank Church Wilderness. More information on wilderness character monitoring is available from the Aldo Leopold Wilderness Research Institute and at Wilderness.net.