Understanding American Wilderness

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Chart the evolution of the wilderness idea, beginning with its early history and philosophy.




The concept of wilderness is derived from that of wildness: that which cannot be controlled by humans. In this course, you will study the evolution of the wilderness idea, beginning with the early history and philosophy of the wilderness concept. You will also learn about the role of federal land management agencies and the changing nature of land management philosophies.

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Course Schedule

This course is self-paced, allowing learners the flexibility to complete the course as quickly or slowly as they need. While exploring course content, learners can investigate topics in greater detail through enrichment activities that link to real-world examples, original source materials, and policy documents. Learners can easily move from section to section as they navigate through the course, revisiting concepts as needed.

Elements of the course:

  • Informational text
  • Interactive practice activities
  • Learn More opportunities
  • Supplemental reference materials

After completing all course activities, you will complete a brief assessment to demonstrate your understanding of key course concepts. Upon successful completion of the assessment, you will be awarded a certificate of completion.

Course Chapters

  • Defining Wilderness
  • Federal Land Management Agencies
  • Wilderness Restoration
  • Wilderness: Fact of Fiction?

Be able to:

  • Define wilderness.
  • Describe various historical and philosophical conceptions of wilderness
  • Use this historical knowledge to form your own conception of wilderness.
  • Describe the evolution of wilderness protection alongside changing philosophies of wilderness management
  • Identify various federal land management agencies.
  • Describe their role in land management.

Recommended Background

No additional background knowledge or skills are required for this course.


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