Human ecology is the study of the relations between communities (groups or populations) and their respective environments. This approach employs a systems perspective of both society and nature; describes the interactions between social systems and ecosystems in terms of transfers of energy, materials, and information; and is concerned with networks, hierarchies, and the dynamics of change. Human ecology takes a comparative approach and assumes the universal principles can be developed that describe the regularities of forms of social organization, the ecosystem, and individual behavior. Four broad orientations for research and management of parks, historic sites, and recreation areas are suggested and a heuristic model of social ecological system processes and structures is presented. To realize the potential of applied human ecology will require an interdisciplinary, biologically informed effort. Such an effort will require considerable rethinking on the part of both scientists and managers. Yet we should expect on less if parks and wilderness areas are to remain sustainable in the challenge of coming decades.