Deciding to Keep Wilderness Wild: Four Cornerstones for Wilderness Managers

Explore the four most important principles of managing wilderness: Preserve Wilderness and Natural Conditions, Protect Wilderness Benefits, Provide and Use the Minimum Necessary, and Manage Wilderness as a Whole.


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This course explores the four most important principles of managing wilderness. Using stories and case studies, the course will prepare you to make well-informed decisions that minimize negative impacts to wilderness character as required by the Wilderness Act of 1964.

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Each Cornerstone begins with a story to help frame the theoretical perspective of that Cornerstone and concludes with a short case study that allows you to practice what you have learned. The stories and case studies are based on real situations. They are designed to stimulate your thought process so that when you are faced with difficult wilderness stewardship issues, you can make informed, appropriate management decisions.

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
  • Engaging videos
  • Supplemental reference materials
  • Final assessment

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

  • Introduction to the Four Cornerstones for Wilderness Managers
  • Preserve Wilderness and Natural Conditions
  • Protect Wilderness Benefits
  • Provide and Use the Minimum Necessary
  • Manage Wilderness as a Whole

Be able to:

  • Describe the Four Cornerstones for Wilderness Managers.
  • Distinguish between wildness (untrammeled) and natural conditions, and
  • Describe how the positive and negative impacts of management actions may preserve one while degrading the other (Preserve Wildness and Natural Conditions).
  • Identify the overall benefits of wilderness.
  • Identify the benefits present in an individual wilderness, and
  • Determine how best to protect them (Protect Wilderness Benefits).
  • Explain the concept of minimum requirements,
  • Conduct the two-step process for determining if an administrative action is necessary, and
  • Determine the minimum activity necessary to achieve the action (Provide and Use the Minimum Necessary).
  • Describe wilderness and the components that contribute to its unique character as a whole (Manage Wilderness as a Whole).

Recommended Background

It is strongly recommended that you complete the free The Wilderness Act of 1964 e-course before beginning this course. Without a foundational understanding of the Wilderness Act, you will not be able to get the most out of this course and could find the content confusing. The Minimum Requirements Analysis courses are also strongly recommended. The Wilderness Act of 1964, Minimum Requirements Analysis courses, and other e-courses can be found at


good overallReview by Christine
I found that especially the quiz, but also the course, assumed that actions (or inactions) would affect only one of the qualities of Wilderness. In reality, it seems actions can affect more than one. I also found that the course assumed one right answer for a situation in the quiz, and so often, its not quite that. As stated in the course - it is indeed complex. Thankfully the authors of the Wilderness Act knew that - I'm reminded always "guardians not gardeners". All that said, an excellent introduction overall. I'd probably have a different reaction if I'd taken this 15 years ago at the beginning of my career. (Posted on 1/10/2018)

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