NRSM 406/NRSM 563

NRSM 406 Wilderness Management Planning (3 credits Undergraduate)
NRSM 563 Wilderness Planning Theory, Management Frameworks and Application (3 credits Graduate)

NRSM 406 and NRSM 563 explore basic planning theory, planning processes, policy, and effective plan writing. The course provides a thorough treatment of elements that characterize effective planning on public lands. A substantial part of this discussion is the role of public participation in planning. It also discusses differences in planning among the four federal land management agencies, with a comparison of the philosophy and application of each.

Moving from planning to application, the course then gives examples of the Limits of Acceptable Change (LAC) framework and Keeping It Wild (KIW2), currently two of the most widely used planning processes in wilderness. This provides a model for identifying the elements necessary to provide a workable plan, one that is ultimately capable of being implemented. The role of indicators and standards of quality in wilderness is likewise discussed, as is the importance of executing a monitoring program. 


Chapter 1: The plan is what guides decision-making, management actions, and ultimately determines the nature of wilderness. This section lays out the argument for using a plan, and the consequences of failing to develop an adequate plan.

Chapter 2: Explores differences in how the four wilderness managing agencies approach planning as a result of differences in the philosophies of each. This chapter also covers legal requirements and agency guidance, as well as an in-depth study of NEPA, the process, format, and discussion.

Chapter 3: Is a practical look at writing a good wilderness management plan. It demonstrates the outline of a good plan using a management-by-objectives approach and the importance of public involvement in the process.

Chapter 4: The logical complement to Chapter 3, this section describes how to implement a plan, once it has been written. A major emphasis in this chapter is a discussion of the LAC planning framework, written by one of its original authors.


  1. Explain the importance of using a good plan, and the consequences of inadequate planning;
  2. Understand the hierarchy of laws, regulations, and policies within which wilderness planning occurs.
  3. Explain the importance and role of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and its relationship to planning.
  4. Describe the current management planning directives of the four federal agencies that administer wilderness. Appreciate and understand reasons for some differences and similarities in wilderness planning among the four federal agencies that administer wilderness. 
  5. Describe the basic characteristics of a goal-achievement or management-by-objectives planning framework. Explain its application.
  6. Illustrate in general terms the steps involved in producing a wilderness stewardship plan. Explain the importance of public involvement in this process;
  7. Describe the Limits of Acceptable Change planning and logic behind it.  Describe the Keeping it Wild framework and the logic behind it.
  8. Explain what role indicators, standards, and monitoring play in management planning.

Another Option

The Arthur Carhart National Wilderness Training Center is offering the “Wilderness Stewardship Planning Framework” course, targeted for federal employees who are leading or are part of a team that is currently (or will soon be) writing a wilderness management or stewardship plan. It may also be helpful for those seeking to learn more about the components of wilderness planning used to address specific issues. It takes about five hours to listen to the narrated, multi-media lessons, but there are suggested practical exercises that will considerably lengthen the time it takes to complete this course. Those work products are designed to get course participants started on the nuts and bolts of a wilderness management plan. The course is entirely self-study, is free to employees of the four wilderness-managing agencies (with a nominal fee to others). No academic credit is available; a Certificate of Completion from the Carhart Center is given to those who finish the course and achieve a score of 80% or higher on the final exam. For more information.

Register Online

Tuition and Fees

Undergraduate Credit- $1200
Graduate Credit- $1275
Credit recording fee- $155 (required if taking course for academic credit)


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