Stewardship of Public Lands

Stewardship of Public Lands addresses continuing controversies in Yellowstone National Park, the world’s first national park. The focus of the course is conflict management, examining how competing interests can be addressed and adjudicated in a democracy. The course concludes with students using the skills developed in the study of Yellowstone to study controversies in the own communities.

Within this framework, the course offers highly engaging and relevant content for today’s students, providing a curricular structure that colleges can adapt to reflect their unique campus strengths. Using controversies in Yellowstone National Park such as the reintroduction of wolves, winter use, and bison management, students learn about the players and their issues, the tactics used by separate interest groups, and the tools of resolution. The course provides students the knowledge and skills necessary for examining controversies and becoming civically engaged in own local environment.

Instructors can modify the course to suit a variety of subject matters and educational levels. Composed of several modules, the course is flexible and adaptable to be included into existing courses or as a stand- alone course.

Key Learning Outcomes:


By the end of the course, students will demonstrate a deep understanding of one or more particular public lands controversies, including relevant scientific findings and understandings, the history of the controversy, the stakeholders involved, and efforts at resolving the controversy.


  • Listen respectfully to another position or point of view;
  • Describe a point of view that the student has heard from someone with whom the student disagrees;
  • Propose a solution for a difficult controversy that offers both sides some “wins”;
  • Organize others for collective action;
  • Describe a series of actions that citizens in a democracy can take to change policy or practice; and
  • Apply knowledge (facts, theories, etc.) from the student’s own academic study/field/discipline to policy dilemmas related to public land use.


  • Participate effectively in civic experiences (e.g., town hall meetings) related to controversies involving public lands;
  • Meet with individual stakeholders on both sides of an issue to ascertain their perspectives and understand their positions;
  • Participate in a public meeting about a public lands controversy and then write a reflective essay about the experience; and
  • Write a letter to the editor of a local paper, making comments and suggestions about a public lands controversy.
Activity 1
A Self-guided Tour
Students will travel to a series of “hot spots” on a map of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Upon entering each hot spot they will investigate information pertaining to their location by viewing websites, video clips and links to the Yellowstone Resources and Issues Handbook.
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