Informing Carrying Capacity Decision Making in Yosemite National Park, USA Using Stated Choice Modeling


  • Peter Newman
  • Robert Manning
  • Donald Dennis
  • Ward McKonly


Yosemite National Park, trade-offs, wilderness experiences, Carrying Capacity Decision-Making, predictive models


Recreation experiences have social, ecological, and managerial dimensions. Park and protected area managers are forced to make trade-offs among these dimensions causing management to be more complex. This study evaluates how visitors to Yosemite National Park wilderness make tradeoffs among indicators of quality that represent social, ecological and managerial dimensions of the recreation experience. It is likely that most visitors want unimpeded access to parks but also want areas protected from excessive resource impacts, want to avoid undesirable levels of crowding and congestion, and “heavy handed” management restrictions. However, these desires often conflict, and tradeoffs must be made. Understanding visitors’ preferences and acceptable tradeoffs will aid managers in deciding how best to mitigate recreational impacts while not hindering, to an unacceptable degree, the freedoms and other qualities often associated with experiences in parks and protected areas. The study was conducted in the summer of 2001 and employed a paired comparison questionnaire in which respondents reported their preferences between alternative wilderness settings. Results from this study were programmed into Excel to create a wilderness management alternative predictive model that enables managers to understand the relationships among various levels of standards of quality. Results suggest signs of human use at campsites was the most important indicator of those used in the study. Moreover, Yosemite wilderness visitors were willing to tolerate increases in certain forms of regulation in order to obtain a high quality recreation experience. Findings can be used to help formulate standards of quality, and evaluate and predict visitor support for potential management alternatives. The examples in this paper illustrate how the evaluation of relative tradeoffs among social, ecological, and managerial setting attributes provide contextual, multi-dimensional information for protected area management decision making.





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