Environmental Management

, Volume 19, Issue 6, pp 815–825 | Cite as

Using ecological criteria to evaluate wilderness planning options in Idaho

  • Troy Merrill
  • R. Gerald Wright
  • J. Michael Scott


Legally designated wilderness areas are acknowledged to be an important element in strategies to conserve biological diversity in United States. However, because of the restrictions on consumptive uses in wilderness, their establishment is normally contentious. Criteria for establishment have typically been associated with opportunity and aesthetic and experiential values. Biological data have not normally played a major role in guiding wilderness establishment. We present four wilderness allocation options for those public lands considered suitable for wilderness designation in Idaho. These options cover the span of choices presently available to wilderness planners in the state and range from not establishing any new wilderness areas to the inclusion of all suitable lands in wilderness. All options are evaluated using spatial biological data from the National Biological Survey's Gap Analysis Project. A conservation strategy that would protect a minimum of 10% of the area occupied by each of 113 native vegetation types and at a minimum 10% of the distribution of each of 368 vertebrate species was evaluated for each option. Only the inclusion of all suitable lands in wilderness, creating a system of 5.1 million ha came close to achieving these goals, protecting 65% of the vegetation types and 56% of the vertebrate species. We feel this approach, which allows planners to evaluate the ecological merits of proposed widerness units along with other values, can provide a means to resolve the impasse over additional wilderness designation in Idaho.

Key Words

Biodiversity Wilderness Planning GIS Gap analysis 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York Inc. 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Troy Merrill
    • 1
  • R. Gerald Wright
    • 2
  • J. Michael Scott
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of GeographyUniversity of IdahoMoscowUSA
  2. 2.Cooperative Park Studies Unit Department of Fish and Wildlife ResourcesUniversity of IdahoMoscowUSA
  3. 3.Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit Department of Fish and Wildlife ResourcesUniversity of IdahoMoscowUSA

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