Sustaining Wildlife With Recreation on Public Lands

A Synthesis of Research Findings, Management Practices, and Research Needs

Humans and wildlife interact in multifaceted ways on public lands with both positive and negative outcomes for each group. When managed well, wildlife-based tourism and other forms of recreation can benefit conservation goals.

by USDA Forest Service

Public lands provide both natural resources for humans and habitat for wildlife. When they interact on public lands, humans and wildlife species can have both positive and negative effects on each other. When managed well, wildlife-based tourism and other forms of recreation can benefit conservation goals. Planners and managers are often faced with difficult decisions regarding how to best manage recreational activities and wildlife habitats that overlap spatially and temporally in the lands they manage. Although the body of literature on wildlife responses to recreational activities is large and growing, existing reviews do not contain the level of detail required to support science-based decision-making.

This report, as the product of a collaborative project by wildlife biologists, recreation social scientists, and public lands managers from across the United States, expands on findings summarized within existing reviews to serve as a reference for planners and managers who need information about how wildlife respond to recreational activity and associated changes in their habitats. The team worked to conceptualize the project, develop the document’s scope and organization, provide critical guidance and insight from the end user’s perspective, and review drafts.

The synthesis and writing were completed by a postdoctoral research fellow with support from the USFS Washington office. Although it is not the focus of this report, we emphasize the importance of framing the management of human-wildlife interactions within a social-ecological system. We present a broad overview of recent research in each of the four quadrants, spanning positive to negative effects that wildlife has on humans and that humans have on wildlife.

Attached document published December 2020

About the Author


To sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the Nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations.

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