From the air we breathe, the food we eat, to the soil we walk on, we are inextricably part of the world around us. As human populations have grown, and our impact on the world around us has escalated, we have begun to “protect” areas from ourselves. Parks, wilderness and other protected areas are largely designed to limit human use and impacts; they are designed to preserve “natural” landscapes and allow biota to persist. In this course we will examine the emergence of protected areas over time, discussing their objectives and variety. The scope will be global with a particular focus on the US and our own Northern California region. There will be emphasis on both the social context of conservation and the vital role of science informing the process. At the end of this course you should have a richer understanding of why areas are protected, how they are managed, and what tradeoffs are involved in protecting them.