Connecting federal employees, scientists, educators, and the public with their wilderness heritage
Resource Protection Toolbox
This toolbox provides information to help wilderness managers translate what the Wilderness Act mandate to preserve wilderness character means for their area by crafting meaningful direction (desired conditions, objectives, and monitoring requirements) so that long-term protections are established. The toolbox is focused on the FS 10 Year Wilderness Stewardship Challenge Element 8, Resource Protection, but includes resources and references applicable to other agencies. In addition to the resources provided here, you may also be able to obtain advice and recommendations through discussion on
. Date of last update: 2/18/15.
The Wilderness Act states that, "each agency administering any area designated as wilderness shall be responsible for preserving the wilderness character of the area" (Section 4b). Thus, to prevent degradation of the wilderness resource, stewardship programs must define what wilderness character means for the particular area, develop plan direction to ensure that wilderness character is preserved (desired condition), monitor to assess whether conditions are trending towards or away from desired conditions, and implement actions to maintain or restore desired conditions. This toolbox focuses on providing information to help wilderness managers translate what wilderness character means for their area into meaningful direction (desired conditions, objectives, and monitoring requirements) so that long-term protections are established to preserve wilderness character. The toolbox does not focus on developing and implementing actions to maintain or restore desired conditions other than provide reference sources that identify the myriad of strategies and tactics managers can use to address specific problems. To be successful in meeting element #8 of the 10-year wilderness stewardship challenge, the minimum level of accomplishment is to develop plan direction that includes a statement of desired conditions and monitoring requirements. This is accomplished either through the Forest Plan Revision process or by amending an existing Forest Plan to include this information. Forest plans revised under the 1982 Planning Rule may be amended using a NEPA process. Forest Plans revised using the 2008 Planning Rule may require a separate planning process and NEPA analysis apart from the forest plan revision process. In either case it is important to understand the forest planning process so that wilderness managers can effectively work with forest planning staff to develop meaningful direction that helps guide decisions so that wilderness character is preserved.
FS Agency Regulations and Policy Wilderness Planning Overview
Wilderness planning is the art of translating what wilderness character means for a particular area into meaningful direction so that long-term protections are in place. Developing "meaningful direction" means crafting desired conditions, objectives, and monitoring requirements in collaboration with the public and incorporating this direction within Forest Plans. One of the lessons learned from years of wilderness management is that change is inevitable. As human use increases or increased pressure is exerted to alter wilderness systems, one of two things happens: (1) Conditions deteriorate (e.g. more trails and campsites are created, crowding occurs in popular locations, more structures appear), or (2) Management intensifies either by imposing more restrictions within the wilderness or by limiting access. Planning is the process used to guide change so the resulting conditions are acceptable.
FS 10-Year Wilderness Stewardship Challenge
What is Element 8 - Overview and Q and A Case Law
Sierra Club v. Lyng, 662 F.Supp. 40 (D.D.C. Jan. 1987). Topic:Resource Protection - insect control Background: In a series of three cases, Plaintiff groups challenged FS program to control southern pine beetle population expansions in federally designated wilderness areas located in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. The southern pine beetle program was not limited to wilderness areas and the purpose and effect of the program was to aid interests of adjacent private property owners, not to enhance wilderness values or further national wilderness policy. Plaintiffs argued that extensive tree-cutting and chemical-spraying violated the Wilderness Act Section 4(c) (16 U.S.C. § 1131(c)) and that the wilderness areas were being destroyed by extensive spot cutting (within wilderness). Plaintiffs argued further that the FS program had not achieved appreciable success in curbing the beetle population expansions. Plaintiffs also brought claims under ESA and NEPA. Defendant argued in response that the Wilderness Act establishes no standards for control of fire, insects, or disease. Holding: The court held that in the immediate situation, the Secretary (FS) was not managing the wilderness but acting in contravention of the Wilderness Act for the benefit of outsiders. The FS' southern pine beetle program as carried out in the wilderness areas at issue was "wholly antithetical to the wilderness policy established by Congress." Sierra Club, 662 F.Supp. at 40. The court noted, "the destruction of many acres of pine trees by chain sawing, and chemical spraying accompanied by noise and personnel in a continuing process unlimited in scope, is hardly consonant with preservation and protection of these areas in their natural state. While many facts remain unclear, the record before the Court suggests that within Wilderness Areas, as mature pines are destroyed by the beetle there will be less and less possibility of outbreaks infecting neighboring areas. Only a clear necessity for upsetting the equilibrium of the ecology could justify this highly injurious, semi-experimental venture of limited effectiveness. The Secretary has failed to demonstrate that the Southern Pine Beetle program as carried out in the three Wilderness Areas is necessary to control the presence of that pest in neighboring pine forests or that it has in any way been more than marginally effective in doing so. Because this Court's analysis raises issues not fully addressed in the papers and because it suggests a need to particularize any approach to the Southern Pine Beetle program in terms of each Wilderness Area, area by area, the Court has concluded that final resolution of the motion can most appropriately await the EIS. The Court directs the parties to file further papers in support of or opposition to the motion within 30 days of the publication of the final EIS with emphasis upon the Secretary's burdens as set out herein in the light of whatever Southern Pine Beetle program emerges in the EIS. In the meantime, the preliminary injunction remains in effect and final action on the motion will be held in abeyance." Key Lesson: The Secretary of Agriculture must justify actions regarding insect control in wilderness areas that contravene wilderness values when such actions are challenged. The Secretary must show that such actions are necessary to effectively control the threatened outside harm. The primeval character of wilderness areas must not be sacrificed for private interests. Private owners of land contiguous to wilderness are obligated to act in a way that minimizes effects on wilderness in all issues of trans-boundary management. Such issues could include insect proliferation, wildfire, and recreational uses.
Sierra Club v. Lyng, 663 F.Supp. 556 (D.D.C. June 1987). Topic:Resource Protection - insect control Background: In a series of three cases, Plaintiff groups challenged FS program to control southern pine beetle population expansions in federally designated wilderness areas located in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. The southern pine beetle program was not limited to wilderness areas and the purpose and effect of the program was to aid interests of adjacent private property owners, not to enhance wilderness values or further national wilderness policy. Plaintiffs argued that extensive tree-cutting and chemical-spraying violated the Wilderness Act Section 4(c) (16 U.S.C. § 1131(c)) and that the wilderness areas were being destroyed by extensive spot cutting (within wilderness). Plaintiffs argued further that the FS program had not achieved appreciable success in curbing the beetle population expansions. Plaintiffs also brought claims under ESA and NEPA. Defendant argued in response that the Wilderness Act establishes no standards for control of fire, insects, or disease. Holding: "Whether the Secretary has met his burden, on this record, of justifying intrusion on wilderness values for the benefit of adjacent landowners depends initially upon how Section 4(d)(1)'s allowance of "necessary" measures is interpreted. If plaintiffs are correct that only measures which are proven to be fully successful in effectively preventing the spread of beetles in an entire area are to be allowed, then the Secretary has failed to meet his burden; he admits that effective area-wide control measures have not yet been identified. If the statute incorporates a less stringent necessity standard, however, the record will support the Secretary's judgment. Plaintiffs read the Act too broadly. First, there is no ground for concluding that Congress used the term "necessary" in the absolute sense urged by plaintiffs. Under the statute, various measures are authorized to the extent that they "may be necessary in the control . . . of insects. . . ." The most natural reading of the Section focuses on the phrase "necessary in the control." In this context "necessary" simply embraces measures "needed to achieve a certain result or effect," American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language 877 (1981) -- that is, measures that are needed as part of a program designed to control, in the sense of restrain or curb, beetle infestations. Cf. McCulloch v. Maryland, 17 U.S. (4 Wheat.) 316, 421, 4 L. Ed. 579 (1819) (construing the necessary and proper clause of art. I, ? 8, cl. 18, as sanctioning "all means which are appropriate, which are plainly adapted to [the desired] end"). The pertinent section of the statute is therefore most reasonably construed as allowing the Secretary to use measures that fall short of full effectiveness so long as they are reasonably designed to restrain or limit the threatened spread of beetle infestations from wilderness land onto the neighboring property, to its detriment. The Secretary's burden under Section 4(d)(1) affirmatively to justify control actions taken for the benefit of adjacent landowners is grounded on the need to ensure that wilderness values are not unnecessarily sacrificed to promote the interests of adjacent landowners which Congress authorized the Secretary to protect. The Secretary has now made clear that unless adjacent landowners and federal authorities responsible for neighboring lands are following all reasonable means for combating beetles, the well-settled policies governing preservation of Wilderness Areas will not be compromised." Key Lesson: The Secretary of Agriculture must justify actions regarding insect control in wilderness areas that contravene wilderness values when such actions are challenged. The Secretary must show that such actions are necessary to effectively control the threatened outside harm. The primeval character of wilderness areas must not be sacrificed for private interests. Private owners of land contiguous to wilderness are obligated to act in a way that minimizes effects on wilderness in all issues of trans-boundary management. Such issues could include insect proliferation, wildfire, and recreational uses.
McDaniel v. United States Topic:Resource Protection - insect control Background: The plaintiffs brought suit under the Federal Torts Claim Act alleging damages to their property as a result of a southern pine beetle infestation which spread to their property from an adjacent wilderness area. They claimed that the United States, through the Department of Agriculture, knew or should have known the threat that the beetle infestation would have for their property and that it negligently failed to eliminate the hazard or issue a warning to the plaintiffs. The defendants argued that the case should be dismissed because the agency actions fell within the discretionary function exception of the Federal Torts Claim Act and that the United States had no duty owed to the plaintiffs to warn or protect. Holding: The court dismissed the case finding that the Forest Service's decision-making process regarding insect control is protected as a discretionary function. It held that "internal processes for making insect control decisions are a matter of discretion because there are policy considerations which should be protected from judicial second-guessing. In this case, the Forest Service employees were permitted but not required to control infestations of southern pine beetles in the wilderness. Because the policy did not require the Forest Service to take particular action, the action was left to employee discretion and could not be challenged in court." Key Lesson: The Forest Service's decision-making process regarding insect control is protected as a Discretionary Function Exception, and suits brought under the Federal Tort Claims Act challenging such decisions will be dismissed.
National Audubon Society v. Hodel 606 F. Supp. 825 (D. Alaska 1984) Topic: Resource Protection - Land exchange Background: The Secretary of the Interior exchanged St. Matthew Island, a wilderness area within the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge, for lands held by several native corporations in the Kenai and Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuges, on August 10, 1983. The native Alaskan corporations, Cook Inlet Region, Inc., Calista Corp., and Sea Lion Corp., were known collectively as CIRI. After the suits were filed, the Secretary defended his actions under Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA). 16 U.S.C. § 3192(h). The lawsuits were brought by plaintiffs concerned about the probable loss of a treasured wilderness area that provided crucial habitat for wildlife and birds. CIRI planned to excavate oil and gas from the area, an action that could damage the ecosystem of St. Matthew Island. A draft environmental statement outlined possible plans, including a potential pipeline to St. Matthew Island or offshore loading with facilities to be built on St. Matthew Island. The plaintiffs sought declaratory and injunctive relief. First, the plaintiffs sought judicial declaration that the Secretary's land exchange was unlawful and invalid, and second, the plaintiffs sought a permanent injunction preventing the defendants from completing the proposed plan of activity on St. Matthew Island. Holding: In consideration of the evidence before the Secretary, the court held that the Secretary's decision was an abuse of discretion. While the Secretary had determined that the lands received in exchange for St. Matthew Island enhanced the national wildlife and conservation worth, the court decided that the Secretary erred in his judgment. The court found that the Secretary's determination that the land exchange would not have a permanent impact on St. Matthew was incorrect. (For summary of potential damage, see 606 F. Supp. at 843-44). Key Lesson: "My review of the underlying record has convinced me that the Secretary, by failing to consider the protections otherwise provided by law and by failing to consider relevant facts appearing of record, seriously misconstrued the benefits to CSU and general wildlife conservation and management objectives advanced by this exchange. Additionally, by characterizing the effects on St. Matthew Island as temporary and by erroneously assuming that the land use stipulations would provide sufficient protection to wildlife and wilderness habitats, the Secretary failed to properly consider the likely negative effects caused by environmental impacts on St. Matthew Island. Finally, the Secretary's determination under ANCSA § 22(g) that a support base located within the Alaska Maritime NWR would be compatible with the environmental protection purposes of this refuge is contrary to the underlying record. The Secretary's Public Interest Determination thus constitutes a clear error of judgment." Examples of Management Plan Direction, Standards, Indicators, and Monitoring
Bridger-Teton National Forest Wilderness Direction (Visitor Use Management Toolbox)
Jedediah Smith and Winegar Hole Wilderness Direction (Visitor Use Management Toolbox)
Sawtooth Inventory and Monitoring
Anaconda-Pintlar Wilderness Forest Plan Direction (Visitor Use Management Toolbox)
Wenatchee NF Standards and Guides
Wenatchee NF Standards by WROS
Wenatchee NF Goals, Objectives, Management
Anaconda-Pintlar Fish Mgmt Update
Ansel Adams-John Muir-Dinkey Lakes Wilderness Management Plan (Visitor Use Management Toolbox)
Alpine Lakes Wilderness Alternatives (Visitor Use Management Toolbox)
BWCAW Standards and Guidelines (Visitor Use Management Toolbox)
SJRG NF Management Direction (Visitor Use Management Toolbox)
Mt. Rogers Wilderness LAC (Visitor Use Management Toolbox)
Step 5 Results-Resource (Microsoft Publisher File)
High Uintas Indicators, Standards, Monitoring (Visitor Use Management Toolbox) Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness Plan
Table of Contents
Bob Marshall Monitoring Guidebook (Visitor Use Management Toolbox)
Eagle Cap Wilderness Standards and Guidelines (Visitor Use Management Toolbox)
Eagle Cap Wilderness Management Options (Visitor Use Management Toolbox)
Eagle Cap Wilderness Restoration Plan
Developing a Monitoring Plan
Holistic Wilderness Monitoring National Park Service
Denali National Park and Preserve Backcountry Management Plan Resources
Landres, P., Boutcher, S., Merigliano, L., Barns, C., Davis, D., Hall, T., Henry, S. Hunter, B., Janiga, P., Laker, M., McPherson, A., Powell, D., Rowan, M., Sater, S. 2005.
Monitoring selected conditions related to wilderness character: a national framework. Gen. Tech. Rep. RMRS-GTR-151. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research
Table of Indicators and Measures Aldo Leopold Wilderness Research Institute
Leopold Publication Number 438 - Linking Wilderness Research and Management; Annotated Reading List, Volume 1 - Wilderness Fire Restoration and Management
Leopold Publication Number 464 - Linking Wilderness Research and Management; Annotated Reading List, Volume 4 - Understanding and Managing Invasive Plants in Wilderness and Other Natural Areas
Linking Wilderness Research and Management; Annotated Reading List, Volume 5 - Backcountry Recreation Impacts to Wildlife (Draft, revised September 2005)
Research in a Nutshell; Results and Management Implications
National Minimum Set Standards-Draft (Visitor Use Management Toolbox)
NPS Potential Indicators and Standards (Visitor Use Management Toolbox)
Managing Recreation Use - Problems and Solutions
Search Management Strategies for Common Wilderness Recreation Problems (online matrix search)
NPS Wilderness Stewardship Planning Handbook Training Resources
Arthur Carhart National Wilderness Training Center University of Montana Wilderness Institute Distance Education Program
RECM 472 Management of the Wilderness Resource
RECM 474 Wilderness Management Planning
Need for Change-Desired Conditions (10.48 MB) (Visitor Use Management Toolbox)
Desired Character (2.14 MB) (Visitor Use Management Toolbox)
Planning Framework (3.05 MB) (Visitor Use Management Toolbox)
Inventory Conditions (1.61 MB) (Visitor Use Management Toolbox)
Indicators and Standards (748 KB) (Visitor Use Management Toolbox)
Indicators and Standards (888 KB) (Visitor Use Management Toolbox) References
Hendee, John C., and Dawson, Chad P., Wilderness Management: Stewardship and Protection of Resources and Values, 3rd edition, 2002,