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Citation for publication number 908:
Cordell, Ken, Barns, Chris, Brownlie, David, Carlson, Tom, Dawson, Chad, Koch, William, Oye, Garry, Ryan, Chris. (2016). Wilderness Stewardship in America Today and What We Can Do to Improve It. Journal of Forestry. 114(3), 292-297.
Leopold Publication Number 908
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     The authors of this article are recently retired wilderness professionals from universities or federal agencies. We were asked to share our observations about how wilderness stewardship is being managed in America today. We based our observations on our many years of combined professional wilderness career experience as man- agers, trainers, scientists, educators, and other careers. Combined, the authors have worked 308 years generally in natural resources and 236 years in wilderness specifically. All of us have had challenging management or research duties related to wilderness stewardship. For this article, wilderness refers specifically to the National Wilderness Preservation System (NWPS). We as coauthors were invited to share our thoughts about wilderness management today because it was thought that our group would have some unique insights. With the years of experience in various positions in the federal agencies and affiliated universities, we hope that our com- bined experience lends credibility to our assessing the status of the NWPS. In the process of conceptualizing this article, a number of wilderness stewardship challenges were identified. Some examples of these challenges are briefly listed below. Of those identified by the coauthors, we selected five that we thought are the most significant overarching challenges. These five are subsequently described and our expert opinions on potential ways to address them are offered. Examples of Challenges to Wilderness Stewardship Management of wilderness (especially preserving wilderness character) and those charged with that management face a number of significant issues or challenges, some of which they can address, others of which they cannot much influence. Examples of these in- clude how to (1) identify and add federal lands qualified for desig- nation as areas in the NWPS, (2) control invasions by nonnative plant and animal species, (3) coordinate between different federal and state land management agencies, (4) best manage growing and more diverse visitor use, (5) decide how or whether to intervene when wilderness character is changing due to human activities (in- cluding defining the minimum type of activities and tools allowed in attempting interventions), (6) accommodate commercial uses that can be inconsistent with retention of wilderness character, (7) limit use of modern digital technologies that can become intrusive in wilderness settings, (8) best decide between natural fire versus fire suppression, (9) best monitor wilderness character and integrate the latest monitoring research, (10) better inform visitors of what the NWPS is, and (11) maintain air and water quality (for more detail on these issues, see the supplemental data). In addition to the chal- lenges listed above, some additional issues were identified by wilder- ness managers through their responses to the 2014 national Wilder- ness Manager Survey (Dawson et al. 2015). Examples of the challenges and threats identified by survey respondents included threats from adjacent land uses, legislated area-specific provisions that compromise wilderness character, fire suppression on lands around wilderness, motorized and mechanical trespass, fragmenta- tion and isolation of wilderness areas, and aircraft or other motor noise.