NRSM 405/NRSM 561

NRSM 405 Managing the Wilderness Resource (4 credits Undergraduate)
NRSM 561 Managing Wilderness Ecosystems (4 credits Graduate)

NRSM 405 and NRSM 561 study ecosystem characteristics and basic principles of wilderness management. Separate chapters discuss management of specific wilderness resources such as fire, wildlife, cultural and historical sites, etc.; and, managing non-conforming uses such as grazing, mining, and motorized vehicles and equipment and mechanical transport. The course discusses the use of primitive means to achieve management objectives, use of the minimum tool, and Leave No Trace camping methods


Chapter 1: Ecosystems and Their Characteristics
Presents Odum's ecosystem concept and how it relates to managing wilderness areas. Also discusses the preservation/use dilemma of wilderness management.

Chapter 2: Basic Principles of Wilderness Management
Discusses 16 wilderness management principles that help guide on-the-ground application of the Wilderness Act.

Chapter 3: The Four Wilderness Managing Agencies
Compares similarities and differences in the mandates, policies, and management approaches of the four federal agencies.

Chapter 4: Special Provisions For Wilderness Use
Discusses non-conforming uses allowed in wilderness and how their effects can be balanced with the purposes of wilderness.

Chapter 5: The Minimum Tool
Minimum impact practices are not only for wilderness visitors, but for managers as well. This chapter treats the teaching and practice of primitive skills, leave no trace, etc.


  1. Describe the human - nature relationship and how this applies to wilderness.
  2. Describe and explain the basic concepts of ecosystems including the unique attributes of wilderness ecosystems.
  3. Explain the basic principles of wilderness management and their application to real-life management situations.
  4. Describe the natural roles of fire, insects, disease, and other events in wilderness ecosystems. Explain how they are managed in wilderness.
  5. Describe the concept of wilderness as a composite resource. Explain how this perspective influences management of wilderness resources and values.
  6. Characterize the role of scientific research in wilderness, including the special considerations required.
  7. Discuss the 'Special Provisions' enumerated in the Wilderness Act. Understand how they came about, their impacts on other wilderness values, and their implications for management.
  8. Describe and understand the 'Minimum Tool' management concept, and its application to wilderness management.

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Tuition and Fees

Undergraduate Credit- $1000
Graduate Credit- $1250
Credit recording fee- $155 (required if taking course for academic credit)


Cole, David N. and Yung, Laurie (Eds.) 2010. Beyond Naturalness: Rethinking Park and Wilderness Stewardship in an Era of Rapid Change. Island Press. Washington, D.C. 287 pp.

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