Management activities, applied over broad scales, can potentially affect attributes of fire regimes including fire severity. Wilderness landscapes provide a natural laboratory for exploring effects of management because in some federally designated wilderness areas the burning of naturally ignited fires is promoted. In order to better understand the contribution of fire management activities to fire effects, we examined patterns of severity across a management gradient defined by wilderness-non-wilderness boundaries in a northern Rocky Mountain study region. We identified a significant positive effect of the management gradient on severity for the time period 1984 to 2010, but the magnitude and direction of effects varied from year to year. However, the influence of management on severity was subsumed by the influence of spatial climate. Our findings represent an important step in constructing predictive models of severity with changes in both climate and fire management practices.