Presentation Title

Recreation Impacts: A Case Study of the Sawtooth Wilderness

Authors' Names

Chelsea Phillippe

Presentation Type

Oral Presentation

Abstract/Artist Statement

Outdoor recreation provides an opportunity for people to connect with nature, improve mental and physical health, and to support local economies. The Outdoor Industry Association reported 13.6 million recreationists in 2017 (1.3 million more than 2016) equating to nearly half of the US population participating in outdoor activities. Federal land managers utilize education, regulation, and law enforcement to protect our natural resources from negative impacts – including those from recreation and tourism. However, there is limited evidence about the effectiveness of these strategies (e.g. Leave No Trace) over long time frames. One area of particular concern is federally designated Wilderness where there is a tension between preservation and human use. By exploring emerging and existing trends in wilderness recreation federal land managers may better develop policy for sustainable tourism and recreation.

The Sawtooth Wilderness in central Idaho provides a unique case study to explore effectiveness of intervention strategies aimed at reducing negative recreation impacts. Record keeping from campsite monitoring, beginning in the 1990s, locates and measures recreation-related impacts on the ground. Twenty years of required wilderness permits, necessary for both day and overnight use, provides insight into user trends; where visitors go, how long they stay, and modes of travel. Supplementary educational reports from the Wildlands Education Plan, interviews with locals and education practitioners, along with educator numbers from the national Leave No Trace campaign provide insight into wilderness education efforts. The Theory of Planned Behavior guides this research to build a better appreciation of user trends, impacts, and education.

The Sawtooth Wilderness Case Study is timely as it focuses on a wilderness at a pivotal turning point in its management and regulation policies. Its location in central Idaho provides a buffered distance from high use and impacts, but as the surrounding communities grow, so do their impacts. In 2017 the United States Census Bureau announced Idaho as the fastest-growing state in the nation, while its capital Boise, was named Forbes Magazine No. 2 spot for young professionals. As new Boise residents discover unique opportunities to escape day-to-day stresses in the serene mountain landscapes of the Sawtooths their impacts will likely compound with existing users. Land managers are challenged to balance these recreation impacts while safeguarding wilderness to maintain pristine and wild conditions.

Preliminary data analysis suggests that use is concentrated in a few select campsite areas and that user trends have changed over the last few decades. Initial Key Informant interviews indicate that the Sawtooth Wildlands Education Plan has been successful in reducing recreation impacts including those at campsites.

Mentor Name

Elizabeth Metcalf

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Recreation Impacts: A Case Study of the Sawtooth Wilderness

UC 333

Outdoor recreation provides an opportunity for people to connect with nature, improve mental and physical health, and to support local economies. The Outdoor Industry Association reported 13.6 million recreationists in 2017 (1.3 million more than 2016) equating to nearly half of the US population participating in outdoor activities. Federal land managers utilize education, regulation, and law enforcement to protect our natural resources from negative impacts – including those from recreation and tourism. However, there is limited evidence about the effectiveness of these strategies (e.g. Leave No Trace) over long time frames. One area of particular concern is federally designated Wilderness where there is a tension between preservation and human use. By exploring emerging and existing trends in wilderness recreation federal land managers may better develop policy for sustainable tourism and recreation.

The Sawtooth Wilderness in central Idaho provides a unique case study to explore effectiveness of intervention strategies aimed at reducing negative recreation impacts. Record keeping from campsite monitoring, beginning in the 1990s, locates and measures recreation-related impacts on the ground. Twenty years of required wilderness permits, necessary for both day and overnight use, provides insight into user trends; where visitors go, how long they stay, and modes of travel. Supplementary educational reports from the Wildlands Education Plan, interviews with locals and education practitioners, along with educator numbers from the national Leave No Trace campaign provide insight into wilderness education efforts. The Theory of Planned Behavior guides this research to build a better appreciation of user trends, impacts, and education.

The Sawtooth Wilderness Case Study is timely as it focuses on a wilderness at a pivotal turning point in its management and regulation policies. Its location in central Idaho provides a buffered distance from high use and impacts, but as the surrounding communities grow, so do their impacts. In 2017 the United States Census Bureau announced Idaho as the fastest-growing state in the nation, while its capital Boise, was named Forbes Magazine No. 2 spot for young professionals. As new Boise residents discover unique opportunities to escape day-to-day stresses in the serene mountain landscapes of the Sawtooths their impacts will likely compound with existing users. Land managers are challenged to balance these recreation impacts while safeguarding wilderness to maintain pristine and wild conditions.

Preliminary data analysis suggests that use is concentrated in a few select campsite areas and that user trends have changed over the last few decades. Initial Key Informant interviews indicate that the Sawtooth Wildlands Education Plan has been successful in reducing recreation impacts including those at campsites.