Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Science (MS)

Degree Name

Resource Conservation (International Conservation and Development)

Department or School/College

W.A. Franke College of Forestry and Conservation

Committee Chair

Dr. Jennifer Thomsen

Commitee Members

Dr. Keith Bosak, Dr. Sarah J. Halvorson


sustainable ecotourism planning and management, whitewater raft kayak tourism, international conservation and development, women's sport adventure tourism participation, community engagement river conservation stewardship, hydropower perspectives, community waste management practices, Bhutan


University of Montana

Subject Categories

Asian Studies | Education | Environmental Studies | Geography | International and Area Studies | Nature and Society Relations | Social and Behavioral Sciences


Whitewater raft and kayak ecotourism can provide environmental, social-cultural, and economic benefits and opportunities to local communities, but can also result in respective challenges. Globally, adventure ecotourism is seen as a potent win-win strategy for conservation and local community development; however, there is a significant proportion of adventure and whitewater tourism that do not meet ecotourism tenets, and there is a call for incorporating greater investment in local community involvement. Whitewater ecotourism is particularly significant because of the unique opportunities and challenges associated with rivers, the resource upon which the industry directly depends. Clean, free-flowing rivers provide a range of crucial ecosystem services, but are simultaneously experiencing rampant threats to existence, such as widespread large-scale hydropower development and increases in waste. Worldwide there is a call for growing local, national, and international efforts to address these threats. In Bhutan, a Himalayan Buddhist kingdom with a small but growing whitewater ecotourism industry, proposals for large-scale hydropower development and growing amounts of trash are changing Bhutan’s rivers and communities, yet there has been little research conducted on impacts of whitewater ecotourism related to communities and rivers in Bhutan.Through a case study in Panbang, Bhutan with the community-based raft company River Guides of Panbang, this research applies a qualitative methods approach to explore whitewater ecotourism related opportunities and challenges for local communities. The findings offer unique aspects of whitewater ecotourism in Bhutan; perceived opportunities, constraints, and constraint negotiations to increase women’s participation in whitewater ecotourism as river guides; and opportunities for the whitewater ecotourism industry in Panbang to engage in addressing Bhutan’s river threats of hydropower development and waste management. These outcomes provide a foundational understanding for specific benefits and constraints associated with whitewater ecotourism in Panbang, Bhutan that can inform sustainable tourism planning for whitewater ecotourism and river conservation initiatives at the local and national scale.



© Copyright 2019 Kira E. Tenney