Preserving Wilderness Landscapes

We work diligently to protect and preserve the integrity of public lands in which we operate, which include vast expanses of public lands in the West, throughout the United States, and around the world.

Public Lands in Public Hands
A small but vocal group of elected officials in the western U.S. are pushing to transfer federally-owned lands to the states, potentially compromising public access and NOLS’ ability to run courses. We are staunch advocates for keeping public lands in public hands. Transferring ownership or management of federal public lands is bad for business, bad for communities, and bad for the true owners of these lands--every citizen of the United States. We are working with diverse outdoor businesses and organizations to counter this land grab and build public awareness and value of these incredible resources that belong to all of us.

Keeping Wild Places Wild
Preserving the wild qualities of our outdoor classrooms will always be the top priority: that’s stewardship in the most literal form. We weigh in when there is an opportunity to engage public land management agencies in future management of our national parks, national forests, and BLM lands. We oppose industrial development that would degrade the wilderness qualities of our classrooms. We advocate for the preservation of threatened landscapes with diverse partners, businesses, and conservation organizations.

Access for All to America’s Public Lands

While NOLS is a nonprofit educational institution and the single largest holder of commercial operating permits on U.S. public lands, our mission and work make us conservation-minded outdoor recreation advocates. Preserving access and promoting outdoor recreation are central to our policy work.

Maintaining NOLS’ Access to the Outdoor Classroom
We are actively working to preserve and grow the school’s permits and authorizations to offer courses on public lands. We are working on regional and national initiatives to improve the public lands permitting systems. Building strong partnerships with agency personnel at local, regional, and national levels of government ensures that the industry sector that NOLS represents is well-considered in any revisions to permit requirements and regulations.

Promoting Equitable Access and Outdoor Opportunities for Youth and Underserved Populations
Through the NOLS scholarship program, hundreds of individuals from underserved populations have the opportunity to have a NOLS experience that would otherwise be out of reach. By working with Gateway Partners, we strive to identify the students that would most benefit from a course. In addition, by partnering with numerous operators to promote permit-streaming and access-creating solutions on public lands, NOLS ensures that today’s youth have more access to programs like ours regardless of their location, economic status, or background.

Thinking Globally

We work closely with our international locations to engage on issues of access, red tape, development, and classroom and environmental integrity.

Baja Coastal Development
The wild beauty of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula provides for outstanding sea kayaking and sailing courses from NOLS Mexico, but also draws the interest of real estate developers looking to cash in on this coastline. Development is a direct threat to NOLS operations, taking away key camping locations and compromising wilderness qualities. NOLS is working with local partners to pursue solutions and preserve more of this coastline’s integrity.

Salmon Farming in Coastal Patagonia
Industrial salmon farming is a growing and under-regulated industry in southern coastal Patagonia. Salmon farms are in the open sea, and present numerous challenges. These operations can significantly affect NOLS Patagonia sea kayaking courses and degrade the wilderness quality of the coastline. Furthermore, they can negatively impact marine ecosystems, human health, and social justice and economic stability in local communities. NOLS works to monitor impacts in the region and works with communities that are chipping away at some of the problems around salmon farming, such as free-floating debris from damaged or abandoned operations. 

Mining Threats on the Yukon’s Peel River
The Peel River’s watershed is largely pristine and undeveloped and is an important classroom for NOLS Yukon students. Recent land use planning in the region threatened to open the door to industrial mining and development that could bring lasting harm to the river’s wild nature and ecology, as well as degrade sacred and important indigenous lands of First Nation peoples. Fortunately, a 2015 court decision sent the planning process back to the drawing board. NOLS will continue to monitor the situation, engage strategically as needed, and educate students about these threats.

Who We Work With

Leaving only footprints

NOLS is the largest backcountry permit holder in the nation, something the school upholds with a great deal of responsibility. By practicing and instilling Leave No Trace habits, NOLS is able to leave minimal impact on our classrooms in the following areas.

National Parks, National Monuments, and Wildlife Refuges

NOLS operates in:

  • Arctic National Wildlife Refuge 
  • Bears Ears National Monument
  • Big Bend National Park 
  • Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area
  • Canyonlands National Park
  • Carlsbad Caverns National Park
  • City of Rocks National Reserve
  • Crooked River National Grassland
  • Denali National Park and Preserve
  • Devils Tower National Monument (NOLS follows voluntary June rock climbing closure).
  • Dinosaur National Monument
  • Gates of the Arctic National Park
  • Glen Canyon National Recreation Area
  • Grand Canyon National Park
  • Grand Teton National Park
  • Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
  • Kenai Fjords National Park
  • Kenai National Wildlife Refuge
  • Jewel Cave National Monument
  • Joshua Tree National Park
  • Kofa National Wildlife Refuge
  • Mount Rainier National Park
  • Mount Rushmore National Monument
  • Noatak National Preserve
  • North Cascades National Park
  • Olympic National Park
  • Saguaro National Park
  • Wind Cave National Park
  • Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve
  • Yellowstone National Park
  • Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge

Bureau of Land Management

  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Colorado
  • Idaho
  • Nevada
  • New Mexico
  • Oregon
  • Utah
  • Wyoming

U.S. Forest Service

  • Ashley National Forest
  • Bighorn National Forest
  • Black Hills National Forest
  • Bridger-Teton National Forest
  • Caribou-Targhee National Forest
  • Chugach National Forest
  • Coronado National Forest
  • Custer National Forest
  • Deerlodge-Beaverhead National Forest
  • Dixie National Forest
  • Gallatin National Forest
  • Gila National Forest
  • Lincoln National Forest
  • Manti-Lasal National Forest
  • Medicine Bow National Forest
  • Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest
  • Okanogan National Forest
  • Salmon-Challis National Forest
  • San Bernadino National Forest
  • Shasta-Trinity National Forest
  • Shoshone National Forest
  • Tongass National Forest
  • Tonto National Forest
  • Wenatchee National Forest


  • Aberdare National Park
  • Baja California
  • Baja California Sur
  • British Columbia Provincial Parks
  • British Columbia Crown Lands
  • Drysdale River National Park
  • Hells Gate National Park
  • India Himalaya
  • Kiunga Marine Reserve
  • Lake Borgoria Game Reserve
  • Lake Nakuru National Park
  • Lauca National Park
  • Loita Hills
  • Parque Conservación Patagonia
  • Parque Nacional Bernardo O'Higgins
  • Parque Nacional Laguna San Rafael
  • Parque Marino Nacional Bahía de Loreto
  • Parque Nacional Queolat
  • Parque Nacional San Pedro Mártir
  • Parque Nacional Torres del Paine
  • Reserva del Biósfero Vizcaíno
  • Reserva del Biósfero la Laguna
  • Reserva del Biósfero Islas del Alto Golfo
  • Reserva Nacional Cerro Castillo
  • Reserva Nacional Jeinimeni
  • Reserva National Río Claro
  • Reserva Nacional Tamango
  • Tombstone Territorial Park (Yukon)

Others (State Parks, Partners, etc.)

  • Adirondack Park
  • Alaska State Parks
  • AHTNA Corporation
  • Anacortes Park and Recreation
  • Australia Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC)
  • Autónoma de Baja California Sur
  • Bardi Aboriginal Community, Chenega Corporation
  • Chugach Alaska Native Corporation
  • Colorado Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation
  • Cook Inlet Region, Inc.
  • Custer State Park
  • Indian Mountaineering Foundation
  • New Zealand Department of Conservation (DOC)
  • Secretaría de Desarrollo Social Universidad
  • Sinks Canyon State Park
  • Smith Rock State Park
  • The Tahltan Nation
  • Tyonek Native Corporation
  • Utah Division of State Lands and Forestry
  • Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission
  • Yukon Territory
  • Yukon Territorial Parks