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Assessing dispersed campsites and exploring campers’ perceptions in western Prince William Sound, Alaska

Maryann Smith, MSES, 2010
Results of this U.S. Forest Service-sponsored research are intended to provide information to resource managers seeking to limit the cost to wilderness character related to campsite hardening caused by trampling in areas not designated for camping. Campers’ perceptions of hardened sites were explored in open-ended, on-site interviews of backcountry users in Blackstone Bay.

A majority of campers appreciated the functionality of hardened sites, but evidence was found of a perceived cost to wilderness character. Evidence of coping mechanisms including product shift, rationalization and displacement emerged. This thesis also examined the appropriateness of campsite hardening by integrating biological, physical and social data.

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) analysis examined campsite attributes such as proximity to sensitive biological resources, recreation-caused impacts and recreation use densities. Of 259 dispersed campsites analyzed, 64 sites were recommended for concentrating use, 181 warranted no action, and 14 were of management concern.