Academic journal article Journal of Agricultural and Applied Economics

Wilderness and Primitive Area Recreation Participation and Consumption: An Examination of Demographic and Spatial Factors

Academic journal article Journal of Agricultural and Applied Economics

Wilderness and Primitive Area Recreation Participation and Consumption: An Examination of Demographic and Spatial Factors

Article excerpt

This paper explores the influence of demographic and spatial variables on individual participation and consumption of wildland area recreation. Data from the National Survey on Recreation and the Environment are combined with geographical information system-based distance measures to develop nonlinear regression models used to predict both participation and the number of days of participation in wilderness and primitive area recreation. The estimated models corroborate previous findings indicating that race (black), ethnicity (Hispanic), immigrant status, age, and urban dwelling are negatively correlated with wildland visitation, while income, gender (male), and education positively affect wildland recreation participation and use. The presence of a distance or proximity factor mitigates some of the influence of race and ethnicity. The results of the cross-sectional models are combined with U.S. Census projections of total population, changes in population characteristics, and estimates of current National Forest Wilderness visitation estimates to give some insight into pressure that might be expected on the nation's designated wilderness during the next half century. Results generally indicate that per-capita participation and visitation rates will decline over time as society changes. Total wilderness participation and visitation will, however, increase, but at a rate less than population growth.

Key Words: logistic, negative binomial, participation, recreation, visits, wilderness

JEL Classifications: Q21, Q26, Q24

Visits to wilderness and primitive areas are increasing in the United States (Taylor). Recreational use of the original 54 Wilderness areas, as designated by the Wilderness Act of 1964, increased by 86% between 1965 and 1994 (Cole). Participation monitoring has demonstrated that Wilderness use was increasing faster than outdoor recreation use in general (Watson, Cordell, and Hartmann). Recent trends indicate that visitor use of Wilderness is still increasing and will continue to increase with additional designations (Watson and Cole). Recreation use of National Forest (NF) Wilderness grew 9.6% annually between 1965 and 1974 and by 10% annually between 1975 and 1985. After 1985, as designation leveled off, the increase in use grew more slowly with an increase of 8.4% by 1993. The same pattern was seen in National Park Service (NPS) Wilderness use following designation (Cordell et al. 1999). Cordell and Teasley conservatively estimated 40.4 million visits to Wilderness or other primitive areas for 1995. Future estimates show increased use per acre and an increase in the number of people who want to experience the opportunities afforded by Wilderness (Cordell et al. 1999).

Alternatively, recent and continuing changes in the ethnic fabric of U.S. society raise questions about culturally induced shifts in outdoor recreation preferences and a subsequent decline in Wilderness visitation (Johnson et al. 2004; Taylor; Murdock et al.). Indepth analyses and understanding of shifting social, spatial, and economic variables, as well as impacts of growing demand for Wilderness or other primitive area recreation, are needed to inform Wilderness and odier public land managers about potential user conflicts and pressures on the resource. Moreover, information about the number of future users can serve as a barometer for societal support for maintaining recreation access to the National Wilderness Preservation System (NWPS).

In this study statistical models for individual participation in and consumption of Wilderness and primitive area recreation are explored and developed. The influence of sociodemographic and spatial factors on people's decision-making process whether to participate in Wilderness recreation, and if so how often, are also tested. Lastly, estimated models are combined with census projections of expected changes in total population and population composition over the next half century and NF Wilderness visitation to forecast recreation participation and use on NF Wilderness and the NWPS overall. …

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