Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design


Forest Resource Management

Committee Chair

Chad D. Pierskalla

Committee Co-Chair

Michael A. Schuett

Committee Member

Michael A. Schuett

Committee Member

Ronal Kerbo

Committee Member

Steven B. McBride

Committee Member

Henry W. Rauch

Committee Member

Steven W. Selin


It has been almost forty years since the passage of the 1964 Wilderness Act and the establishment of the National Wilderness Preservation System. Forty years later, we still have not seen a wilderness that is not a surface environment. There exist neither subterranean nor marine wilderness areas. Efforts on behalf of cave wilderness have focused on the 1964 Wilderness Act legal definition of wilderness. Perhaps what is required is a different concept for the establishment of cave wilderness. This study explored the idea of cave wilderness from a human dimension perspective, via focus groups, using stakeholders from two cave regions of the United States – Carlsbad Caverns and Mammoth Cave. Through this process a definition of cave wilderness, as well as, definitions of wild cave, developed cave, show cave, and commercial use cave were generated. The study reports on a proposed intent for a cave wilderness designation as well as legislation and management prescriptions. Based on study findings the conceptual framework of wilderness was expanded from a two-dimensional model to a three-dimensional model, adding the human dimension to the wild and natural dimensions. A cave continuum model was developed which shows the interplay of these three dimensions of wilderness. Findings of this study clearly indicate the need for an ecosystem management approach in the stewardship of cave and karst resources.