Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Name


Department or School/College

College of Forestry and Conservation

Committee Chair

William T. Borrie

Commitee Members

Norma P. Nickerson, Michael E. Patterson, Douglas R. Dalenberg, Jeffrey A. Gritzner


experiences, meanings, modeling, place, relationships, wilderness


University of Montana


Dvorak, Robert, Ph.D., Summer 2008 Forestry

Dynamic human relationships with wilderness: Developing a relationship model

Chair: William T. Borrie

Wilderness managers are charged with the challenging goal of balancing resource protection and experience quality across a broad, value-laden landscape. While research has provided insight into visitor motivations, psychological outcomes, and meanings, a struggle exists to implement experiential concepts within current management frameworks. A need also exists to manage wilderness for concepts outside of setting attributes. This research posits the human experience of wilderness to be an evolving, enduring relationship. Therefore, research needs can be addressed by investigating and conceptualizing an individuals' personal relationship with a wilderness area.

The overall purpose of this study was to explore the relationships with wilderness that users develop in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and how changes in use, users, and other external forces influence these relationships. A general predictive model was proposed for a relationship that was then utilized to investigate the internal dimensions of a relationship with wilderness.

A mail back questionnaire was distributed during the summer of 2007, which resulted in a sample of 564 respondents. Data was analyzed using structural equation modeling, confirmatory factor analysis, and multiple regression analysis. Results from testing several relationship models provided support for a multidimensional underlying structure consisting of five factors (place identity, trust, commitment, place meanings, and place dependence) with a single overarching relationship factor. Multiple regression results also demonstrated several external variables that were associated with a wilderness relationship. Ultimately, the preferred relationship model indicated that while place factors were important, they were not the sole measures of a wilderness relationship. Trust and commitment were also significant underlying factors.

This research provided the preliminary evidence for a multidimensional wilderness relationship model and built upon previous understandings of sense of place and experiences to apply a relationship metaphor to a wilderness and natural resource setting. It laid the foundation for a research agenda that may help guide future management actions to increase protection of wilderness character and facilitate quality human relationships with wilderness.



© Copyright 2008 Bob G. Dvorak