View Selected Publication

Select another publication number to view citation:   
Citation for publication number 911:
McCool, Stephen F., Freimund, Wayne A. (2016). Maintaining Relevancy: Implications of Changing Societal Connections to Wilderness for Stewardship Agencies. Journal of Forestry. 114(3), 405-414.
Leopold Publication Number 911
Download this publication (349 KB)
Not available to order

     The growing concerns about civil society’s connections with wilderness raise intriguing questions about the dynamic character of wilderness meanings and engagement. In this review, we use the notion of an adaptive cycle to suggest that our societal relationships with wilderness are dynamic and not static and that by understanding the adaptive character of connectedness and social cohesiveness, stewardship organizations will have a greater capacity to adapt and respond rather than feel threatened. For each of four stages in the adaptive cycle, we propose information and organizational needs, including leadership that is sensitive to the changing character of relevancy and that can steer an agency through change. Management and Policy Implications: Americans’ relationship with wilderness is not static, but dynamic and complex. Questions about the relevancy of wilderness need to include the long term. For managers, this means that not only must they sense changes in relationships but also they must be adaptable and resilient, be prepared for new citizen-sponsored initiatives such as citizen science and art, foster building different kinds of connections, and recognize that while on site use may decline, other trends we do not now monitor may be occurring. For policymakers, changing relationships mean that the Wilderness Act does not need to be modified as some have advocated. It does mean that wilderness stewardship organizations need to retain highly qualified and creative staff who are comfortable operating in dynamic and complex social and political environments. It also means that traditional bureaucratic alignments in stewardship organizations, formed when recreation and visitor use dominated the relationship with wilderness, may also need transformation. This will be a challenging task because the capacities and mental models policymakers and managers hold may no longer be appropriate. Furthermore, it suggests that wilderness will continue to be a major interest, politically and culturally, of the American public.