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Can You Hear Me Now? Using the Telephone to Discover Peoples' Opinions About Wilderness

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

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In 1964, Congress passed a law that established the National Wilderness Preservation System (NWPS). This law identifi ed areas of Federal land to be protected as much as possible from human activities. These lands are called wilderness and are allowed to exist without any machines or permanent habitation by humans. In this study, the social scientists wanted to know how U.S. citizens feel about wilderness. They wanted to know if people are aware that wilderness exists. They wanted to know what people value about wilderness. 

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:
  • Life Science
  • People and Science
  • Technology and Science

"Environmental Topics" covered in this article:
  • Importance of Forest to People (Students)
  • The Value of Forests and Grasslands (Educators)

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:
In the United States, Federal representatives are elected to make decisions on behalf of the whole population. These representatives make up the Congress. To make decisions that are in the best interest of the majority of citizens, these representatives often make use of public opinion research, or polls. Scientists who conduct these polls contact a random sample of American citizens and ask them questions. In this study, the scientists contacted a random sample of citizens and asked them questions about a special category of natural lands called wilderness. Elected representatives can use the results of polls like this to help them make decisions. Their decisions can then reflect how the majority of American citizens feel about wilderness.
Specific "Thinking About Science" Themes:
  • Characteristics of Scientists
  • The Scientific Process
  • Uses and Benefits of Science

"Thinking About Environmental Themes" covered in this article:
People receive a variety of benefits from publicly owned land. When people use land or receive benefits directly from the land, they may value the land because they can use it. Scientists call these kind of benefits 'use benefits.' Examples include using the land for recreation, such as for hiking and camping; mining for minerals; using trees for wood; harvesting food products; and using the land for scientific research. People also receive benefits that do not necessarily come from their activities on the land. Examples include the preservation of land to protect water and air quality, to provide habitat for wildlife, and to ensure that future generations can also benefit from the land. Scientists call these kinds of benefits 'non-use benefits.'
Specific "Thinking About the Environment" Themes:
  • Value of natural environments

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

Science Benchmarks covered in this article:
  • Habits of Mind: Communication Skils
  • Habits of Mind: Values and Attitudes
  • The Nature of Science: Scientific Inquiry