Naturalness and Wildness: The Dilemma and Irony of Managing Wilderness

Document Type

Conference Paper

Journal/Book Title

Wilderness science in a time of change conference-Volume 5: Wilderness ecosystems, threats, and management; 1999 May 23 27; Missoula, MT.

Publication Date




First Page


Last Page



This paper summarizes a dialogue session that focused on two concepts that strongly influence nearly all wilderness management: wildness and naturalness. The origin and value of these concepts are discussed, as well as the dilemma and irony that arises when wilderness managers contemplate manipulating the environment to restore naturalness at the risk of reducing wildness. To illustrate this irony, a case study of a proposed large-scale manipulation to stop the loss of cultural resources in the Bandelier Wilderness is discussed. It is concluded that large scale wilderness restoration based on manipulating the environment will always cause a dilemma and entail the irony of balancing wildness against naturalness. One of the biggest hurdles facing wilderness policy-makers and managers today, as well as the concerned public, is how to reconcile these views and manage wilderness for both wildness and naturalness.


Proceedings RMRS-P-15