Date of Award

8-1-2016

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Agricultural Sciences

First Advisor

Park, Logan

Abstract

Land managers are facing increasing visitation rates on the resources under their care resulting in associated impacts and complex management challenges. As the Shawnee National Forest (SNF) management team updates and revises the 2006 SNF Land and Resource Management Plan, understanding influences on visitor attitudes and behaviors becomes essential. This dissertation presents findings and associated planning recommendations from three social science research efforts on the SNF. The first manuscript examined the effects of the knowledge of, and attitudes towards, Leave No Trace (LNT), as well as visitor perceptions of effectiveness and difficulty to perform minimum impact practices, on the intentions of visitors to perform future minimum impact behaviors. A survey instrument was deployed at ten different recreation sites on the forest to measure the variables of interest. Results indicated that visitor attitudes toward the appropriateness of practicing LNT, perceptions of effectiveness of LNT practices and beliefs pertaining to the ease of LNT practice do, to an extent, influence visitor behavioral intentions. The second manuscript examined the relationships within, and influences of, levels of recreation specialization, place bonding and origin of introduction to the sport of rock climbing on the environmental awareness of climbers. Results indicated that climbers are aware of ecological conditions at Jackson Falls, SNF. Origin of introduction was not a direct influence on impact awareness, as were the constructs of specialization and place, however it was correlated with both constructs suggesting a possible indirect influence. When combined, the constructs of specialization and place influenced climber awareness, albeit the influence was small. Moreover, as the combination of these constructs served as a better predictor than each alone, underlying drivers of influence within each construct is suspected. Recommendations for further research that deconstructs recreation specialization and place bonding are discussed. The third manuscript addressed relationships within, and influences of: past experience; economic investment; skill; centrality to lifestyle; commitment; place familiarity, belongingness, identity, dependence, and rootedness; origin of introduction and knowledge of LNT on rock climbers’ attitudes and self-reported onsite behaviors. Origin was not a direct influence on attitudes or behaviors. Knowledge was correlated with behaviors. While several relationships between variables were uncovered, predictive potential of variables on attitude and behavior was small. Exploratory Factor Analysis was conducted uncovering four underlying unobservable factors within the variables. A proposed model and associated implications are discussed. Management recommendations emerging from this dissertation, including strategies for indirect management opportunities such as persuasive messaging and minimum impact education efforts as well as opportunities for adaptive co-management opportunities with area recreation advocacy groups, were discussed in the concluding chapter.

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