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Wilderness Institute and Aldo Leopold Wilderness Research Institute

The Wilderness Institute at the University of Montana is led by Natalie Dawson, who I met on my first day on Campus. The Wilderness Institute connects various fields of sciences, such as arts, literature, law or forestry, with the topic of Wilderness. All this is combined in their undergraduate minor programme. Natalie Dawson and I mainly talked about the differences in the implementations and interpretations of Wilderness definitions of Europe and the United States, a topic that I will also discuss during my talk at the University later this week. Working in their office this week will give me the opportunity to further interact with the Institutes’ staff and exchange knowledge concerning Wilderness stewardship and outreach.

Please also read: Shape Wilderness’ future: Contribute to the Aldo Leopold Wilderness Institute’s new plans


Aldo Leopold Wilderness Research Institute: Research in Wilderness

Later that day I met with Alan Watson of the Aldo Leopold Wilderness Research Institute. Alan was part of the team to launch the European Wilderness Society during the WILD10 Conference in Salamanca in 2013. We talked about several research projects he was involved, such as an ongoing project about management measures for fire management in the buffer zone of the Tribal Wilderness at the Flathead Indian Reservation. In general, Wilderness areas in the US don’t have Buffer zones. So this Tribal Wilderness is a rare exception that offers to draw a link to European Wilderness areas, where Buffer or Transition Zones are a common tool to deal with different forms and extents of management measures. Fire management is one of the key issues we will take up during the next years starting at this years Wilderness Academy Days in the Kalkalpen Wilderness. We further talked about projects concerning climate change adaptation and the effects of impacts to catchment areas of rivers.

Wilderness character mapping

My meeting with James Tricker, GIS analyst at the Aldo Leopold Wilderness Research Institute, gave me a good insight in the spatial representation of Wilderness and the indicators and data involved. He conducted Wilderness character mappings for several Wilderness areas across the United States, such as the Death Valley NP Wilderness. Based on these projects a Wilderness Character Toolbox was developed. Such a Wilderness charakter mapping does not only visualise the Wilderness potential of an area but, with the help of a regularly updated database, can play an essential tool in Wilderness stewardship and monitoring.

What’s up next?

I will hold a talk at the University of Montana about Wilderness in Europe and the differences of protecting Wilderness in Europe and the US. The weekend will bring me to the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, where I will visit wolverine research stations and talk to several people of the Friends of the Bitterroot. Friends of the Bitterroot are a local grassroots organisation with the aim to preserve the wildlands and wildlife and to protect the forests and watersheds of their region by building a sustainable relationship with the environment.

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