Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Master's Report

Degree Name

Master of Science in Environmental and Energy Policy (MS)

Administrative Home Department

Department of Social Sciences

Advisor 1

Richelle Winkler

Committee Member 1

Nancy Langston

Committee Member 2

Amy Marcarelli


The Wilderness Act of 1964 designated certain areas denoted as wilderness in the United States of America for the sake of preservation and conservation. In the state of Michigan, 16 designated wilderness areas currently exist, and the Environmental Law and Policy Center (ELPC) is advocating for the addition of four new wilderness designations. The addition of these areas would add about 51,000 acres of federally recognized wilderness areas to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. This paper aims to understand public attitudes and political support or opposition to these new wilderness designations among residents and visitors of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (U.P.). Using social media posts from Google Maps, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, I qualitatively analyzed social media data to understand the reasonings behind support or opposition to wilderness in the U.P. I also conducted a social network analysis of Twitter users discussing wilderness in the Upper Peninsula to reveal how they interact with one another, diffuse ideas about wilderness designation, and organize support or opposition of wilderness designations. Findings show that public social media posts were generally supportive of wilderness designation with very little explicit opposition posted on public sites. Supportive social media posts generally noted the importance of protection and preservation of wilderness and discussed behaviors of respecting wilderness. Opposition social media posts generally discussed concerns of “conservation police officers” and hypocritical actions taken by wilderness advocates. The social network analysis revealed that more people expressed support for U.P. wilderness and wilderness designation than opposition on Twitter. This report offers insight as to how the ELPC and decision makers should promote the four wilderness designations in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, which can impact the final legislative decision on whether to designate the new areas.