"We must not only protect the wilderness from commercial exploitation. We must also see that we do not ourselves destroy its wilderness character in our own management programs. We must remember always that the essential quality of the wilderness is its wildness."
—Howard Zahniser (1953), principal author and champion of the 1964 Wilderness Act, U.S. Public Law 88-577
Howard Zahniser cautioned that we must not only protect wilderness but also guard against our own manipulative tendencies in administering these wild areas. Even scientific studies that advance our understanding of nature can compromise the integrity of wilderness (fig. 1). For example:
• A nationwide vegetation survey sought to grid the landscape with monument clusters consisting of stakes, nails, metal flashing, and rods and to access remote plots by helicopter (USDA Forest Service 2006).
• Wildlife researchers corralled molting Canada geese in net pens using aircraft, boats, and kayaks, anesthetized the birds, obtained blood and feather samples, and surgically implanted radio transmitters inside the abdomens of some (Hupp et al. 2010).
• A state agency tranquilized brown bears, extracted tooth and hair samples, and installed temporary radio collars and permanent ear tags (USDA Forest Service 2011).
These studies would expand knowledge of flora, fauna, and natural systems. They would be conducted by professionals with strong connections to their subject matter. Yet each was to occur in wilderness, where monumentation, installations, helicopters, and manipulation of wildlife are normally prohibited by the Wilderness Act.
Wilderness managers and scientists need to find a common approach whereby scientific activities adhere to Wilderness Act standards (fig. 2
) (Six et al. 2000; Bayless 1999; Eichelberger and Sattler 1994). Commendable efforts have been made toward this goal, notably, A Framework to Evaluate Proposals for Scientific Activities in Wilderness (Landres et al. 2010) and Wilderness Research in Alaska’s National Parks (National Park Service n.d.). This article examines three fundamental aspects of the Wilderness Act whereby increased understanding may help wilderness managers and scientists improve collaboration.