A Review and Synthesis of Recreation Ecology Research Findings on Visitor Impacts to Wilderness and Protected Natural Areas

This article examines the recreation ecology literature most relevant to wilderness and backcountry, with a focus on visitor impacts to vegetation, soil, wildlife, and water resources.

The 50th anniversary of the US Wilderness Act of 1964 presents a worthy opportunity to review our collective knowledge on how recreation visitation affects wilderness and protected natural area resources. Studies of recreation impacts, examined within the recreation ecology field of study, have spanned 80 years and generated more than 1,200 citations. This article examines the recreation ecology literature most relevant to wilderness and backcountry, with a focus on visitor impacts to vegetation, soil, wildlife, and water resources. We also review relationships with influential factors, such as the amount of use, visitor behavior, and vegetation type. An understanding of these impacts and their relationships with influential factors is necessary for land managers seeking to identify acceptable limits of impact or selecting management actions that will effectively avoid or minimize resource impacts.

Attached document published March 2016

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