GLBA Wilderness Character Assessment

Wilderness = an area of undeveloped Federal land retaining its primeval character and influence without permanent improvements or human habitation, which is protected and managed so as to preserve its natural conditions
— Wilderness Act Section 2(c)

GSS was contacted by Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve (GLBA) during Summer of 2017 about completing a wilderness character assessment for the park. GSS recently published Glacier Bay's Natural Resource Condition Assessment (NRCA), and during that effort, it became apparent to the park that an additional project dedicated specifically to the current condition of wilderness in the park was needed.

From September 18-24, GSS staff members Andy Nadeau and Kevin Benck traveled to Juneau by plane, and then took a 7-hour ferry from Juneau to Gustavus, Alaska. From there, NPS staff drove Andy and Kevin to the park, where they would stay in park housing for five days for project kickoff meetings. While most of the days were spent inside at park headquarters discussing how the wilderness character assessment would be processed and analyzed, Kevin and Andy were able to get out into the field to experience the wilderness first-hand.

Flight route Andy, Kevin, and NPS staff took to get a birds-eye view of the park

On Tuesday, they hiked 10 miles around the Bartlett Cover area, including a hike through designated wilderness to the Bartlett River, and additional beachcombing through Bartlett Cove and Halibut Point. On Wednesday, Andy, Kevin, and two park staff took a 2-hour plane ride over the park to get a birds-eye view of the size of the park, the extent of the designated wilderness, and the glacial coverage of the area. The flight was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and the weather was incredibly cooperative!

At the conclusion of the meeting, Andy and Kevin had completed an initial framework for the wilderness character assessment, including what qualities of wilderness would be measured and what metrics would be used to define condition. At the conclusion of the entire project (Summer 2018), GSS will deliver a full report, rich with spatial components that will highlight the condition of wilderness in the park and what threats the park may be facing.