Tribute to Wilderness Leader Bob Lucas

The field of wilderness stewardship lost a friend and leader on February 21, when former Forest Service scientist Bob Lucas passed. Bob was an original wilderness scientist, conducting ground-breaking research on visitors to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area long before the Wilderness Act was a reality. His work there, and then leader of the former Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station Wilderness Management Research Work Unit in Missoula identified many of the important foundations for effective wilderness stewardship research. Bob’s style was to work with stewards, find solutions to their challenges and use their experience to frame problems. From his initial assignments in St.Paul, and then on to Missoula, he recognized the important contributions that both social science and biophysical science could make to more effective management. And, he stimulated and supported many university faculty and graduate students to get involved in wilderness research.

I was one of those. Bob supported both my master’s and Ph.D. work in the Boundary Waters, and until he retired in the late 1980’ we worked together on many projects. Bob was a friend, a colleague and a mentor and he influence many in these different roles. His spirit, sense of humor and research will last long into the future.

Please share your thoughts about Bob by contribuing a comment below.  If you are not an SWS member and do not have a login, you can send your comments to for posting. 

Steve McCool


I first met Bob when I was with the USFS in the Superstition Mtns. Wilderness (AZ) in 1984, before moving to Missoula to start grad school. Having just read the 1st edition Wilderness Management textbook, to me it was like meeting a rock star. He was there for a Regional wilderness training. We all hiked up Peralta Canyon from the trailhead where I was stationed and stopped at a stream crossing to discuss the importance of protecting riparian areas in the desert. I introduced him and the topic to the rest of the group. I guess I got a little carried away, because when he started his talk, he said something to the effect of "Well, I'm not sure I have much to add to that!" One year later I was in Missoula and Bob Lucas was on my thesis committee. He was incredibly helpful and patient with me. One time I asked him for some drawings that we were using in my thesis research. I was sure that he had them, not me. He called me a day or two later and said he had turned his office upside down looking for them and couldn't find them. Sure enough, I had them all along. I sheepishly admitted this to him, and instead of getting mad, he said, "Well, I needed to clean my office anyway." After I finished my thesis, he managed to get a little funding to pay me for a month to produce a journal article from it. After reading my first draft, he said he was having serious second thoughts about having his name listed as a co-author. That was Bob's version of a kick in the butt! Needless to say, I got it straightened out, and am proud that the first journal article of my career lists Steve McCool and Bob Lucas as co-authors. Bob was a real inspiration to me!

Steve Martin

Bob was a giant in wilderness management. The wisdom he shared will forever live with those of us who studied his papers and had the privilege of interacting with him.

Linda Merigliano

Wow what a loss. I was with Bob on a trip into the Mission Mountains Wilderness (late 70s) and he was the first person to open my eyes to social science. After our trip, I promised myself that I too would one day become a social scientist - I have nothing but positive memories - May his spirit always glisten in the mystery of mountain streams :)

JP Flood

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