National Wilderness Conference Program

After receiving nearly 400 submissions of presentations and panels in last fall's public call for proposals, the National Wilderness Conference Printed Program is available online along with program updates.

In addition to eight plenary programs, the program features 84 sessions in the six tracks listed below:

History: The Evolving Wilderness
Leading scholars will tell inspiring stories of how the wilderness concept evolved. Sessions will discuss the landscape and social changes that led to the wilderness movement, and the ideas and ideals, the hopes and fears and concerns for the future that motivated the framers of the Wilderness Act. But history too evolves, and sessions will explore diverse interpretations related to our wilderness frontier cultural heritage and its role in shaping our national character and identity.

Stewardship: Professionalization and Challenges
When the Wilderness Act passed, managing wilderness often meant just leaving it alone. But today, new threats require more proactive approaches, the field of wilderness stewardship has grown and become more professionalized, and faces unprecedented challenges in today's evolving physical and social environments. Leading agency practitioners, researchers, academic scholars and partners will all share perspectives, expertise, and case studies in this field.

Education: Preparing Tomorrow's Stewards
To succeed, wilderness management must work to prevent social and physical impacts, prepare future stewards, raise public awareness and cultivate and involve more diverse constituents in support of wilderness. Sessions in this track offer field-tested information for wilderness education program development, implementation, evaluation, and fundraising strategies in difficult economic times. Real-life education success stories will be offered as a foundation for building new or enhancing existing wilderness education programs.

Experience: The Value of Diverse Perspectives
This track will provide a forum for those who participate in, study, or manage recreation in wilderness. Whether visitors come for the challenge of an arduous trek or just to be in a world apart from the distractions of modern civilization, they arrive with motivations, perspectives, and behaviors that need to be better understood if the full range of experiential benefits is to be provided while protecting wilderness resources. As well, sessions will include the existence and symbolic values experienced by millions who will never set foot in Wilderness.

Civic Engagement: Preservation is Only the Beginning
Our nation's decision-making on wilderness involves public participation at its very heart, from wilderness establishment to debate on management in challenging economic and climate-stressed times. Congressional staff, environmental professionals, under-served community leaders, and agency personnel will discuss the new age of civic engagement in preserving and managing our nation's wilderness heritage, as well as the changing demographics of the wilderness constituency in an era governed by social media. Sessions will focus on innovations and traditions of activism through individual volunteerism, organizational involvement, and electoral participation.

Science for Wilderness; Wilderness for Science
Sessions in this track include topics from both the ecological and social sciences. Presentations will describe ecosystem services provided by wilderness, and its value as a natural laboratory, lending insights into how the natural world functions when left wild, and how it responds to large-scale, human-caused influences, such as global climate change. Presentations will examine research findings that enable better stewardship-from new understandings of how wilderness can be protected to how visitor experiences and behaviors can be affected by various management approaches.

A number of the sessions under these tracks will focus on the future stewardship of the National Wilderness System, while other sessions will explore opportunities to understand the relevance of Wilderness to young people and future generations of an increasingly diverse American public, and on the emerging issues that could not have been foreseen when The Wilderness Act was written such as accelerating climate change, shifting demographics, and economics.