Journal of Park and Recreation Administration
The nature of recreation and resource management issues related to the winter season in Yellowstone National Park requires a holistic approach in understanding visitor preferences, perceptions, and support for management actions. A dramatic increase in winter visitation over the past three decades and intense controversy related to bison management in the park have posed difficult challenges to managers. Specific questions such as what do visitors want out of their experience and how do visitors perceive management initiatives are central to these challenges. A multiple methods approach, one quantitative and one qualitative, was employed to gain more depth and breadth in understanding. The quantitative study used a mail-back questionnaire to measure the importance of certain visitor experiences and agreement with specific management initiatives. An apparent discord between respondents’ desired experiences and support for management actions sparked a qualitative investigation. In-depth interviews provided insight into why visitors believe wildlife is at the heart of the experience, but are unlikely to support management actions aimed at protecting the bison herd in the park. The complement of the two methods suggests that other factors, such as awareness of a problem, perceived role of the park, and trust in the decision-makers, influence visitors’ perceptions of management actions.