UM News Service
MISSOULA – The University of Montana’s Wilderness Institute invites the public to plan backcountry trips online using Wilderness Connect (https://www.wilderness.net).
The recently redesigned website guides recreationists who are planning hiking, backpacking, boating and wildlife-watching trips to federally designated wilderness areas. It also provides key resources for land managers to ensure that wilderness areas are protected for future generations to enjoy.
Wilderness Connect includes descriptions, regulatory information and interactive maps of all 803 wilderness areas in the U.S. The site also provides educational information detailing the history of the wilderness ethic, today’s stewardship challenges, and the benefits of and threats to wilderness. Users can search by state or wilderness name.
For land managers, the website provides searchable legal and scientific databases and toolboxes on contemporary wilderness stewardship issues like climate change, fire and using traditional tools like crosscut saws.
“Our digital wilderness library – the only one in the country – puts information at the fingertips of more than 475,000 visitors annually and makes the Wilderness Institute a broad-reaching leader in conservation education,” said Andrew Larson, WI director.
“Americans are very concerned right now about their public lands at a time when reliable online information can be hard to find,” said Lisa Ronald, WI communications director. “Wilderness Connect is the only apolitical source for accurate and timely wilderness facts.”
Housed within UM’s W.A. Franke College of Forestry and Conservation, the WI is a special center of excellence that provides students, land managers and the public with research products, educational programs, resources and technical tools to understand wilderness and wildlands conservation and stewardship.
In addition to being available to anyone online, Wilderness Connect is used as part of the WI’s Wilderness Management Distance Education Program, which provides professional wilderness stewardship education to students around the country. Wilderness Connect is also used as part of the Wilderness and Civilization Program, an interdisciplinary, experiential undergraduate program at UM.
Established in 1975, the WI was organized by a group of scientists, educators, conservationists and public land managers in response to ongoing political strife over wilderness allocation and management. Current WI programs also include a freshman wilderness experience and a citizen science summer program that empowers community volunteers to monitor the status of public lands in Montana. For more information on UM’s WI, visit http://www.cfc.umt.edu/wi.