"The recreation value of wilderness has been often and ably presented, but its scientific value is as yet but dimly understood." — Aldo Leopold.
Increasing use of wilderness areas, and development pressures outside of wilderness, create stresses that threaten the biological and societal benefits derived from wilderness. Managers struggle to understand these threats and to protect and restore natural conditions and opportunities for wilderness experiences. Wilderness managers require scientific research to understand the character of wilderness ecosystems, the biological and social impacts of human activities on wilderness ecosystems, the role of wilderness in larger social systems, and the impact of different policy and management alternatives.
The Aldo Leopold Wilderness Research Institute is dedicated to the development and dissemination of knowledge needed to improve management of wilderness. While many scientists conduct discipline-focused research relevant to wilderness, the Leopold Institute is the only federal research group primarily focused on research needed to sustain wilderness. The Leopold Institute goals are to develop the knowledge needed to protect and preserve wilderness and the ecological and social values derived from wilderness and similarly managed lands, and to communicate and apply this knowledge to the wilderness management agencies and other user groups.