In 1967, he completed a Ph.D. at the University of Washington and became project leader of the Forest Service recreation research unit in Seattle. In 1976, John was selected as a Federal Congressional Fellow and served on the staffs of Senator Frank Church of Idaho and Congressman James Weaver of Oregon. He then served on the Legislative Affairs Staff of the Forest Service in Washington, D.C. and, from 1979 to 1985, was assistant director of the Southeastern Forest Experiment Station in Asheville, North Carolina. He was appointed Dean of the University of Idaho, College of Forestry, Wildlife and Range Sciences in 1985. He served nine years until 1994, when he became director of the UI Wilderness Research Center and Professor of Resource Recreation and Tourism. He retired in 2002, although he remained active in wilderness affairs until his death in 2016. John contributed significantly to wilderness as an empirical scientist, as the author of seminal papers and books about wilderness management, as a mentor, cofounder of the International Journal of Wilderness and his work with the WILD Foundation on the protection of wildlands and natural areas worldwide.
John’s most significant empirical wilderness work came early in his career. In his dissertation, he contrasted the preferences of wilderness and car campers, national park, national forest and state park visitors. He found early evidence of wilderness users, particularly those in national parks, being more likely to be highly-educated, from an urban area and more interested and involved in their recreation activity (Hendee 1967). In 1965, he conducted an early study of wilderness visitors—exploring the characteristics, values and management preferences of visitors to the Glacier Peak, Three Sisters and Eagle Cap Wildernesses (Hendee et al. 1968). Although these three wildernesses differed in the type of use characteristic of each area (day hikers, backpackers and horse users), there was little variation among the attitudes of visitors or their preferences for management. This led to the conclusion that there is little reason for different management policies in different areas, other than that necessary to adapt to local conditions such as terrain, access and weather.
As leader of a recreation research project assigned to study dispersed roaded recreation issues rather than wilderness, John’s subsequent empirical work was less focused on wilderness. His research group made important contributions to understanding littering and depreciative behavior and how to change it, as well as public involvement in decision-making. John wrote about rural-urban differences in recreation participation, substitutability and a typology of recreation activity preferences. More directly related to wilderness, he studied fishing and other recreation behavior at high mountain lakes (Hendee et al. 1977) and developed the Code-A-Site system for assessing campsites (Hendee et al. 1976).
John’s most significant contributions to wilderness science were probably his insightful commentaries on wilderness management, his efforts to organize and disseminate information on wilderness management and his mentoring of other wilderness students and scholars. With George Stankey, he discussed contrasting philosophies of wilderness management—anthropocentric and biocentric (Hendee and Stankey 1973). Although they clearly supported the biocentric option, they concluded that open debate was needed so the choice between philosophies could be resolved before inaction or expedient decisions establish precedent. With Bob Lucas, he wrote insightfully about wilderness permits—arguing for their utility while cautioning against indiscriminate rationing of use and adverse effects on the spontaneity of wilderness use (Hendee and Lucas 1973). He suggested that to protect wilderness it is important to provide other areas outside wilderness where users can get away from civilization and enjoy all kinds of primitive recreational activities (Hendee 1974), advice that was not heeded leading to many ongoing wilderness controversies, from interest in opening wilderness to mountain bikes to concerns with limiting use and ecological manipulation in wilderness.
John’s great contribution to organizing information about wilderness management, making it accessible to managers, students and others, was his leadership in writing the textbook, Wilderness Management. First published in 1978, with George Stankey and Bob Lucas, the book is in its fourth edition—much enlarged, with Chad Dawson as coauthor and with many chapters written by a new generation of subject matter experts. This was followed by his founding, in 1995, of the International Journal of Wilderness. John served as managing editor of the journal for its first 6 years and as editor-in-chief for 16 years.
While assistant director of the Southeastern Forest Experiment Station in Asheville, North Carolina, John mentored and channeled funds to a new generation of wilderness scientists in the east, including Ken Cordell, Joe Roggenbuck and one of Roggenbuck’s students, Alan Watson. Outcomes of these collaborations include organizing a wilderness assessment for the Forest and Rangeland Renewable Resources Planning Act (RPA) and working to improve technology transfer related to wilderness management in the east, including a list of wilderness management innovations. John’s mentoring role increased further when he moved to the University of Idaho. At this time he became deeply interested in the use of wilderness for personal growth and therapy. He oversaw theses and coauthored articles on this topic by a number of students at Idaho (e.g. Friese et al. 1998, Russell et al. 1998). With his wife, Marilyn, and her nonprofit educational organization, he conducted vision quests in wilderness.
Particularly over the final 30 years of his life, John made significant contributions to the international wilderness movement, through his involvement with the WILD Foundation and the World Wilderness Congresses that they convene periodically around the world. He was instrumental in strengthening the science component of that organization and its congresses, serving as vice chair for science and education.
John was a Fellow of the Academy of Leisure Sciences and received numerous awards, including the American Motors' National Conservation Achievement Award (1974), the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) Award for Outstanding Contributions to Wilderness Research and Education (1985), the American Society for Public Administration award for "Lifetime Contributions to the Administration of Natural Resources" (1987), an award for leadership in Wilderness Research and Education from the Society of American Foresters Wilderness Working Group (1993) and a Lifetime Leadership Award from the Forest Service for educational work in wilderness management and stewardship (2009).
Hendee J.C. 1967. Recreation clientele—the attributes of recreationists preferring different management agencies, car campgrounds or wilderness in the Pacific Northwest. Ph.D. dissertation. Seattle, WA: University of Washington.
Friese, G.; Hendee, J.C.; Kinziger, M. 1998. The wilderness experience program industry in the United States: characteristics and dynamics. Journal of Experiential Education 21: 40-45.
Hendee, J.C.; Catton, W.R., Jr.; Marlow, L.D.; Brockman, C.F. 1968. Wilderness users in the Pacific Northwest, their characteristics, values and management preferences. Res. Pap. NNW-61. Portland, OR; U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Forest and Range Experiment Station.
Hendee, J. C.; Clark, R. N.; Hogans, M. L.; Wood, D.; Koch, R. W. 1976. Code-A-Site: a system for inventory of dispersed recreational sites in roaded areas, backcountry, and wilderness. Res. Pap. PNW-209. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Forest and Range Experiment Station.
Hendee, J.C.; Clark, R.N.; Dailey, T.E. 1977. Fishing and other recreation behavior at high mountain lakes in Washington state. Res. Note PNW-304. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Forest and Range Experiment Station.
Hendee, J. C.; Lucas, R. C. 1973. Mandatory wilderness permits: a necessary management tool. Journal of Forestry 71: 206-209.
Hendee, J.C.; Stankey, G.H. 1973. Biocentricity in wilderness management. Bioscience 23: 535-538.
Russell, K.M.; Hendee, J.C.; Cooke, S. 1998. Social and economic benefits of a U.S. wilderness experience program for youth-at-risk in the Federal Jobs Corps. International Journal of Wilderness. 4(3): 32-38.