Reference Manual #41 (RM-41): Wilderness Stewardship

What It Is

Reference Manual #41: Wilderness Stewardship provides comprehensive guidance to National Park Service employees responsible for managing and preserving wilderness character and wilderness resources throughout the NPS system. RM-41 serves as Level 3 guidance, and includes relevant legislation, regulations, Management Policies, other instructions or requirements issued through Director’s Order #41, as well as examples, illustrations, recommended practices, forms, etc.  All materials included in RM-41 have been approved by the Associate Director, Visitor and Resource Protection.

RM-41 is a dynamic resource, where guidance will be updated as needed and paired with current examples when available.  Please check back periodically for additional postings and updates and/or consult with the Wilderness Stewardship Division regarding interpretation and/or application of this guidance.

Why It Matters

Fifty-three percent of National Park System lands are designated as wilderness, with additional acreage in more than twenty-five parks proposed or recommended for wilderness designation. Consistency across the NPS system in the management and planning of these areas is vital, particularly with the ever increasing number of visitors enjoying NPS wilderness areas.

Additional Information

Reference Manual #41 supplements Management Policies 2006, Chapter 6, Wilderness Preservation and Management. Together with Director’s Order #41 (DO 41), this Order supersedes and replaces any conflicting guidance issued previously.


  • Find out more about wilderness stewardship and protection training resources on the Wilderness Stewardship CLP Landing Page!
  • Do you know the wilderness status of lands within your park unit?
  • How might the status of your park’s wilderness lands affect management decisions?

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