Day-User Beliefs Regarding Leave No Trace in Rocky Mountain National Park


  • Derrick Taff Colorado State University
  • Peter Newman Colorado State University
  • Alan Bright Colorado State University
  • Wade Vagias U.S. National Park Service


Resource degradation due to depreciative behaviors continues to be of concern for park and protected area managers and many of the visitors that recreate in these pristine areas. Land managers must maintain a delicate balance between use and preservation amidst increasing visitation, particularly in popular frontcountry areas. Visitor education has become a prominent and, often successful, technique used to curb depreciative behaviors (Hammit & Cole, 1998; Hendee & Dawson, 2002; Lucas, 1983; Manning, 1999, 2003, 2007; Marion & Reid, 2001). In most protected areas, education concerning Leave No Trace (LNT) practices is the most prevalent form of minimum-impact messaging applied to encourage correct behavior and discourage depreciative behavior (Harmon, 1997; Marion & Reid, 2001; Vagias, 2009). Despite improved efficacy and practice concerning LNT, depreciative behaviors causing resource impacts still occur. Theory suggests that attitudes lead to specific behaviors (Ajzen, 1991; Ajzen & Fishbein, 1980; Fishbein & Manfredo, 1992; Ham & Krumpe, 1996; Vagias, 2009), and by gaining deeper understanding about specific attitudes, we can discover why visitors of protected areas maintain particular beliefs, norms, and ultimately, behaviors. Therefore, this study evaluated frontcountry-day-user attitudes pertaining to LNT minimum impact behaviors. Results provide insight concerning visitor attitudes and the level of knowledge respondents had about LNT practices. These findings offer greater understanding concerning those LNT Principles that may be confusing or misinterpreted by visitors, thus enabling land managers and outdoor recreation educators to enhance educational strategies.