Wildlands

In today’s fragmented and degraded world, the remaining stretches of intact ‘wildlands’ are crucial to the persistence of biodiversity over the next few hundred years of very rapid environmental change.

We have a long and deep history in the definition, mapping, inventorying and protection of wildlands. Starting in 1993, Peter Morrison and his team mapped roadless areas and other wildlands that are already protected as Wilderness or Park, as part of a biodiversity assessment and establishment of conservation priorities for the North Cascade Ecosystem in Washington State and British Columbia.

This work led to the design of an integrated reserve network that represents all elements of regional biodiversity, in which wildland complexes formed the core of the reserve network.  We took a novel approach of mapping roadless areas and other wildlands on all kinds of land ownership - public, private and tribal. Political decisions affect the way different kinds of land are managed, and how biodiversity fares in these land types. So it’s crucial to map roadless areas and wildlands in the entire landscape.

Soon after the North Cascades project, we mapped all remaining unprotected and protected wildlands in Washington State. Our 1998 report, Unprotected Wildlands of Washington State, was based on this work. We then mapped unprotected and protected wildlands in Oregon, in partnership with the Oregon Natural Resources Council. A map of Oregon's wildlands resulted from this project.

The Sierra Club asked us to help map the remaining wildlands across the eight western states that explorers Lewis and Clark traversed in the first part of the 19th century. We produced a series of maps, published in Sierra, magazine of the Sierra Club, and used in other ways celebrating the Lewis and Clark Expedition. A map of the wildlands in all 8 northwestern states on Lewis and Clark's route resulted from this project.

A year later, Pacific Biodiversity Institute was commissioned by the Pew Wilderness Center to map the remaining wildlands on four federal ownerships (National Forest, Bureau of Land Management, National Park and National Wildlife Refuge) across the entire nation and its territories. This led to a remarkable series of maps covering the entire nation and more detailed maps for each state. You can purchase hard copies of these maps on our Conservation planning tools page.

Here we explain how wildlands are defined, what inventoried and uninventoried roadless areas are, why they exist and why they’re crucial to the future of our wildlife and ecosystem health.

Current work on wildlands

Pacific Biodiversity Institute has applied our extensive field-based knowledge and expertise in spatial analysis to mapping the extent and characteristics of wildlands in the western hemisphere. In the last decade, we’ve launched two new major wildland mapping initiatives:

  • This is an ambitious project with our Latin American conservation partners. Our wildland mapping project will share and disseminate information about the contribution of wildlands to global biodiversity.
  • Analyzing the biodiversity contributions of wildlands, and wildland conservation priorities, in Washington State.