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Wild and Free! The Quality of Wildness in Wilderness in the United States

This article is from Issue Wilderness Benefits - Vol. 7 No. 1.

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According to the scientists in this study, wildness is one of the central qualities of wilderness. To say that an area is wild in this sense, the scientists believed that it must have two qualities: (1) It must have the quality of naturalness, and (2) it must be free from the control of humans. In this study, the scientists wanted to find out whether their belief that wilderness is more natural and freer from human control than other lands is really true. 

Welcome to the Wilderness Benefits edition

Note to Educators

Wilderness Benefits Lesson Plan

Reflection Section Answer Guide

Education Standards Correlations


Meet the scientists that contributed to this article:

"Science Topics" covered in this article:
  • People and Science
  • Technology and Science

"Environmental Topics" covered in this article:
  • Forest and Grassland Use (Educators)
  • Using Forests (Students)

Regions covered in this article:
  • Alaska
  • Forest Products Lab
  • Intermountain
  • International Institute of Tropical Forestry
  • Northern
  • Pacific Northwest
  • Pacific Southwest
  • Rocky Mountain
  • Southern
  • Southwestern

"Thinking About Science Themes" covered in this article:
Scientists are always learning about and using the latest technology that can help them to do a better job of discovering new information. In this study, the scientists used technology in the form of a computer-based mapping system, called a Geographic Information System (GIS). In a GIS, layers of information about a specific place are combined. The result is information about that place that includes the relationship of a number of features. In this study, the scientists combined six types of information for each of 16 million square kilometers of land and water in the United States (figure 1).
Specific "Thinking About Science" Themes:
  • Characteristics of Scientists
  • The Scientific Process

"Thinking About Environmental Themes" covered in this article:
Imagine a small piece of land, about one-half kilometer square (or a little less than one-third of a mile on each side). That piece of land can have many characteristics that may be identified and measured. For example, you could measure the amount of ground within the square that is covered by trees. You could measure the length of any road within the square, or identify that there are no roads within the square. You could measure the length of any stream or river within the square. You could count the number of people living within the square. You could even count the number of middle school students living within the square! The land has many characteristics, which include natural characteristics and human-related characteristics. Think about the land on which your school is located. Identify four natural characteristics that can be measured and four human-related characteristics that can be measured. You can see that a lot of information can be attached to a specific piece of land.
Specific "Thinking About the Environment" Themes:
  • Ecosystems
  • Human impact on natural resources and other living things

NSE Standards covered in this article:
  • Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry (A)
  • Natural hazards (F)
  • Nature of science (G)
  • Science and technology in society (F)
  • Science as a human endeavor (G)
  • Understandings about science and technology (E)
  • Understandings about scientific inquiry (A)

Science Benchmarks covered in this article:
  • Common Themes: Scale
  • Habits of Mind: Critical-Response Skills
  • The Nature of Science: Scientific Inquiry
  • The Nature of Technology: Technology and Science