Natural and Wilderness Areas: Popular Attitudes

Natural and wilderness areas are topics that repeatedly come to the fore of the social debate regarding the future of landscape development in Switzerland and other countries. In recent years, we have been involved in several projects that have recorded people's attitudes towards natural and/or wilderness areas.


Potential of Target Wilderness in Switzerland

Wilderness is still a controversial concept in Switzerland. mountain wilderness is an NGO that is revisiting the topic of wilderness in Switzerland and providing the basis for a broad public discourse. The WSL is taking on part of the basic scientific work for this project: based on a project-specific working definition of wilderness and using various indicators, the WSL is identifying existing wilderness areas in Switzerland and analysing the potential of target wilderness in Switzerland using a geographic information system (GIS). The project is also exploring what is happening with the wilderness debate in Switzerland and Europe and who the important stakeholders are in this debate. Based on the results of the scientific research, mountain wilderness will be able to write a study report including recommendations.


Financing: mountain wilderness  (Contact: Sebastian Moos)

Project term: 2016-2017

Contact at WSL: Nicole Bauer, Felix Kienast, Josef Senn

Assessment of level of popular awareness and attitudes towards wilderness. Link Swiss and Romanian expertise

As part of the WWF's Southwestern Carpathian Wilderness and Sustainable Development Initiatives cohesion project, the WSL conducted a study entitled "Assessment of level of popular awareness and attitudes towards wilderness. Link Swiss and Romanian expertise". This sub-project consisted of two studies on the acceptance of the wilderness concept in a WWF project area in the Southwestern Carpathians in Romania. A preliminary study presented the initial situation, i.e. a questionnaire developed and applied in Switzerland was adapted to the situation in Romania. By means of a cluster analysis, potential stakeholders were identified for a communications campaign by WWF Romania. This meant that the campaign could be targeted more effectively at these groups. The aim of this communications campaign was to increase the acceptance of wilderness (areas) by the local population in the WWF Romania project area. The second study led by the WSL was for the purpose of determining if there were shifts in the acceptance of natural and wilderness areas.


Financing: Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) (contributions to enlargement), WWF Switzerland (Matthias Diemer and Valerie Passardi)
Project term: 2014-2016
Contact WSL: Nicole Bauer

Popular attitudes towards natural and wilderness areas

This study identified the prevailing attitudes towards wilderness and natural areas among the Swiss population and established the background for the support and rejection of the wilderness.

A two-phase approach was chosen for this project:

  • The inductive phase involved the exploration of the research topic. The tools used in the inductive phase consisted of linguistic analyses of literature and print media, qualitative interviews, the evaluation of image material and an Internet survey.
  • The hypotheses developed consequent to the inductive phase were tested during the deductive phase. This testing took the form of a representative survey for Switzerland.

Financing: Bristol Foundation
Project term: 2000-2005
Contact at WSL
: Nicole Bauer



Stremlow, M., Sidler, C. 2002: Schreibzüge durch die Wildnis. Wildnisvorstellungen in Literatur und Printmedien der Schweiz.