NRSM 404/NRSM 560

NRSM 404 Wilderness in the American Context (4 credits Undergraduate)
NRSM 560 American Wilderness Philosophy and Policy (4 credits Graduate)

NRSM 404 and NRSM 560 lay the groundwork for all other courses in the Program. This course provides a broad perspective of what wilderness is and how the idea developed, and exposes the student to some of the differing values, ethics, and expectations of wilderness held by society. It offers an account of the origins of the wilderness idea, tracing the beginnings of the conservation movement from the Greek philosophers to today.

In this course you will examine the early history of wilderness preservation that ultimately led to federal protection in the Wilderness Act and subsequent legislation, including how each agency applies these laws. 404/560 is an excellent course for managers and students interested in obtaining a firm academic foundation in wilderness philosophy and ethics.


Chapter 1: focuses on the wilderness ideal and how it came about. In this chapter are discussions of what wilderness is, the wilderness experience, and wilderness ethics. Such wilderness champions as John Muir, Arthur Carhart, and Aldo Leopold are also discussed.

Chapter 2: gives a particularly good historical account of events leading up to and including the Wilderness Act.

Chapter 3: picks up where Chapter 2 leaves off. It offers a detailed discussion of the Wilderness Act's language and significance for management, including judicial interpretations of the Act.

Chapter 4: describes the National Wilderness Preservation System as it is currently administered, and a description of the procedure for adding wilderness areas to the system. An important discussion in this chapter is the final section: "The International Perspective", discussing some applications and critiques of the American wilderness ideal.


  1. Describe why there are different perceptions of wilderness in society today and how this has evolved throughout history.
  2. Articulate the influences of philosophy, science, religion, and politics on the development of a wilderness ideal in America.
  3. Explain the basic philosophical and ethical principles connected with an appreciation of wilderness.
  4. Describe the events leading up to the Wilderness Act of 1964, including the historical context of these events.
  5. Enumerate the fundamental elements of the Wilderness Act and other legislation as it applies to wilderness management.
  6. Describe the National Wilderness Preservation System and its function.
  7. Understand the significant international issues and critiques of the American wilderness ideal.

Register Online Button

Tuition and Fees

Undergraduate Credit- $1600
Graduate Credit- $1700
Credit recording fee- $155 (required if taking course for academic credit)


Callicott, J.B. and M.P. Nelson. 1998. The Great New Wilderness Debate (Callicott and Nelson, eds.). University of Georgia Press. Athens, GA. 697 pp.

Dawson, Chad P. and Hendee, John C. 2009. Wilderness Management. Fulcrum Publishing, Golden, Colorado.

Leopold, A. 1966. A Sand County Almanac. Ballantyne. New York, NY. 226 pp.

Nash, R. 2014. Wilderness and the American Mind. 5th edition. Yale University Press. New Haven, CT. 409 pp.

Scott, D. 2004. The Enduring Wilderness. Fulcrum Publishing, Golden, Colorado.
184 pp.