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Publication Information

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Title: Use limits in wilderness: Assumptions and gaps in knowledge

Author: Hall, Troy E.;

Date: 2001

Source: In: Freimund, Wayne A.; Cole, David N., comps. Visitor use density and wilderness experience: proceedings; 2000 June 13; Missoula, MT. Proceedings RMRS-P-20. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. p. 39-48.

Publication Series: Proceedings (P)

   Note: This article is part of a larger document. View the larger document

Description: As wilderness use levels have changed, managers have often considered implementation of use limits to control the impacts of use density. Use limits are generally intended to protect natural qualities and/or to ensure opportunities for solitude, although the second goal appears to have become more common over time, and may be the central use-related concern for certain high-use wildernesses. The goal of this paper is briefly to review the evolution of use limit systems in wilderness and then raise three key questions about use limits, with which managers and researchers must grapple before setting use limits. In posing these questions, unquestioned assumptions that have guided policy are revealed, and gaps in knowledge are highlighted. The first question concerns which users benefit from use limit policies. One common response to this question - choosing to favor wilderness-dependent users - has been openly debated, but another very common judgment, to apply use limits only to overnight users has not. The second question concerns selection of the appropriate scale for deciding whether use limits are needed. As managers consider whether outstanding opportunities for solitude exist and whether natural systems have been unduly compromised, and therefore whether to limit use, the scale of analysis has a critical effect on their decision. Policy provides little guidance for the choice of scale, but looking at a single site, an entire wilderness, or an entire land base within a region may change the decision of whether to limit use. The final question asks whether existing use limit systems achieve their intended goals and objectives, and concludes that evidence is largely absent. This review and set of questions demonstrates that the decision to limit use entails a number of important value judgments, many of which are not - but should be - explicitly discussed.

Keywords: carrying capacity, recreation management, solitude, use limits, visitor density, wilderness experience, research methods

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Hall, Troy E. 2001. Use limits in wilderness: Assumptions and gaps in knowledge. In: Freimund, Wayne A.; Cole, David N., comps. Visitor use density and wilderness experience: proceedings; 2000 June 13; Missoula, MT. Proceedings RMRS-P-20. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. p. 39-48.

 


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