Partner logos: Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service, Forest Service, National Park Service, University of Montana Logo
Connecting federal employees, scientists, educators, and the public with their wilderness heritage

Can scientific research be conducted in wilderness?

Research is considered a valid and important use of the wilderness resource and is encouraged as long as projects do not degrade the wilderness character and they are wilderness dependent in nature. Research and monitoring devices may be installed and operated in wilderness only when the desired information is essential and cannot be obtained from a location outside of wilderness, and the proposed device is the minimum tool necessary to accomplish the objective safely and successfully. If proposed studies are not compatible with wilderness values, managers work with applicants to find alternate locations or methods of access. For example, the Forest Service participated in a national survey of wilderness lakes conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency in 1986. Helicopter access to sample the lakes was initially requested, but the Forest Service proposed and helped complete the sampling using foot or horse travel. Inventory of the physical and biological resources is often needed to provide current baseline information, to serve as a benchmark for environmentally induced change in the future, to support other scientific studies, and to monitor the impacts that recreational uses have on wilderness resources.