About Us

The Wilderness Institute

  • Provides integrated, interdisciplinary, and experiential wilderness education.
  • Disseminates information related to wilderness research, management, and education.
  • Advances scholarship on wildland issues through research, workshops, and publications. 
  • Facilitates service learning and community engagement in wildland decision-making.
  • Encourages dialogue regarding wilderness issues and stewardship.

Origin and History

Housed within the University of Montana's W.A. Franke College of Forestry and Conservation, the Wilderness Institute was established in 1975 to provide wilderness information, research, and interdisciplinary education. The Wilderness Institute was created by a group of scientists, educators, public land managers, and conservationists. The Institute was established, in part, in response to the ongoing political controversy over wilderness allocation and management.

Since 1975, Wilderness Institute projects have responded to a variety of wildland issues and needs. During the 1970s, the Institute performed field research at the request of Senator Lee Metcalf that led to the establishment of nine Wilderness Study Areas in Montana. The Institute developed methodology and organized field studies for the first wilderness inventory of BLM lands. During this period, the Institute also worked with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes on the establishment of the Mission Mountain Tribal Wilderness.

The Institute has sponsored and co-sponsored a variety of conferences and events, including the 1978 National RARE II Conference, the 1993 Limits of Acceptable Change Conference, the 1999 National Wilderness Science Conference, the 2000 Visitor Use Density and Wilderness Experience Workshop, and the 40th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act celebration in Missoula.

Current projects and programs include the Wilderness and Civilization program, the Wilderness Issues Lecture Series, the Freshman Wilderness Experience, the Wilderness Distance Education program, Wilderness.net, the Citizen Science Program, and the Matthew Hansen Endowment.