Assessing the Social Construction of Visual-Spatial Preferences for Wilderness Impacts


  • Christopher D. Jones
  • Steve J. Hollenhorst
  • William E. Hammitt


Fixed-anchors, visual preference, visual impacts, wilderness.


This follow-up study examines visual-spatial differences in preferences for cliff scenery and the visual impacts of fixed-anchors in the Twin Peaks and Mt. Olympus Wilderness areas as an expansion of a recently published article in this journal, “Evaluating visual impacts of near-view rock climbing scenes,” which detailed visual impacts of climbing in a frontcountry area. Visitor responses to photo-based measures of visual preference were obtained during on-site interviews conducted at Big Cottonwood Canyon. A series of photo-questionnaires were distributed during the summer of 2003. Questionnaires contained randomly ordered photos taken spatially at cliffs along accessible hiking trails of both wilderness areas. Two hundred twenty five respondents rated a series of 27 photos for visual preference. Evaluations were undertaken 1) to determine a variety of controls for whether scenes containing fixed anchors were significantly higher or lower in visual preference than scenes with anchors excluded; and 2) to determine whether camouflaging and distance of viewer to anchors significantly influenced visual preference. Results of statistical tests (repeated ANCOVAs, factor analysis, and paired t-tests) confirmed four of five a priori hypotheses. These results suggested that any future regulations to eliminate fixed-anchors in these two wilderness areas on the basis of visual impact are justified only for the use of brilliant colored anchors placed within near-views. Furthermore, bans are not justified on the basis of significant visual impact for camouflaged anchors placed at distant views. Interestingly, sport climbers, who depend solely on fixed-anchors to ascend climbs, did not prefer to view scenes containing fixed-anchors any more than traditional climbers. This result is contrary to views of wilderness management personnel and climbing media reports. The results also suggested that, for wilderness managers to reduce visual impacts, they should implement policies requiring anchors to be camouflaged and high off the ground in order to avoid viewing by wilderness visitors. Lastly, through education about low-impact practices, managers should be able to reduce negative attitudes and perceptions concerning the management of fixed-anchors as well as future impacts to the resource.





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