Wilderness Management Distance Education Program (WMDEP)
Wilderness images from the http://www.wilderness.net image library: Click link at bottom of page for image credits
Wilderness images from the http://www.wilderness.net image library: Click link at bottom of page for image credits
Contact information:
(406) 243-5346

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NRSM 406 Wilderness Management Planning (3 credits Undergraduate)
NRSM 563 Wilderness Planning Theory, Management Frameworks and Application (3 credits Graduate)

NRSM 406/563 Winter/Spring Online Course: The course will run October 5, 2015 - Janaury 29, 2016. Registration Deadline: Wednesday, September. The course will be capped at 16 students and needs 8 students to run. Registration deadline: September 23. Register early to reserve your spot. Click here for more information.

NRSM 406 and NRSM 563 explore basic planning theory, planning concepts, and effective plan writing. The course provides a thorough treatment of the elements that characterize effective planning on public lands. A substantial part of this discussion is the role of public participation in planning. It also discusses differences in planning among the four federal land management agencies, with a comparison of the philosophy and application of each.

Moving from planning to application, the course then gives an example of the Limits of acceptable Change planning framework, currently one of the most widely used planning processes in wilderness. This provides a model for identifying the elements necessary to produce a workable plan, one that is ultimately capable of being implemented. The role of indicators and standards of quality in wilderness is likewise discussed, as is the importance of executing a monitoring program.


Chapter 1: The plan is what guides decision-making, management actions, and ultimately determines the nature of wilderness. This section lays out the argument for using a plan, and the consequences of failing to develop an adequate plan.

Chapter 2: Explores differences in how the four wilderness managing agencies approach planning as a result of differences in the philosophies of each.

Chapter 3: Is a practical look at writing a good plan. Written by one of the foremost wilderness planners, it demonstrates the outline of a good plan using a management-by-objectives approach.

Chapter 4: The logical complement to Chapter 3, this section describes how to implement a plan, once it has been written. A major emphasis in this chapter is a discussion of the LAC planning framework, written by one of its original authors.


  1. Explain the importance of using a good plan, and the consequences of inadequate planning.
  2. Explain the fundamental planning concepts needed to develop a wilderness management plan.
  3. Describe the current management planning processes and philosophies applied by the four wilderness managing agencies, identifying differences among them.
  4. Describe the basic characteristics of a goal-achievement or management-by-objectives planning framework. Explain its application.
  5. Illustrate in general terms the steps involved in producing a wilderness management plan. Explain the importance of public involvement in this process.
  6. Describe the Limits of Acceptable Change planning approach and the logic behind it.
  7. Explain what role indicators, standards, and monitoring play in management planning.


Dawson, Chad P. and Hendee, John C. 2009. Wilderness Management.  Fulcrum Publishing, Golden, Colorado.

Tuition and Fees
Undergraduate Credit- $670
Graduate Credit- $755
Book- $70
Credit recording fee- $135 (required upon completion of the course if taking course for academic credit)

Another Option: The Arthur Carhart National Wilderness Training Center is offering the “Wilderness Stewardship Planning Framework” course, targeted for federal employees who are leading or are part of a team that is currently (or will soon be) writing a wilderness management or stewardship plan.  It may also be helpful for those seeking to learn more about the components of wilderness planning used to address specific issues.  It takes about five hours to listen to the narrated, multi-media lessons, but there are suggested practical exercises that will considerably lengthen the time it takes to complete this course.  Those work products are designed to get course participants started on the nuts and bolts of a wilderness management plan.  The course is entirely self-study, is free to employees of the four wilderness-managing agencies (with a nominal fee to others).  No academic credit is available; a Certificate of Completion from the Carhart Center is given to those who finish the course and achieve a score of 80% or higher on the final exam. For more information.

Click here for photograph credits.

The University of Montana, College of Forestry and Conservation
The University of Montana
College of Forestry and Conservation
The Arthur Carhart National Wilderness Training Center
Arthur Carhart
National Wilderness Training Center