Research to Guide Management of Backcountry Camping at Isle Royale National Park: Part II—Prescriptive Research


  • Steven R. Lawson
  • Robert E. Manning


Wilderness management, Isle Royale National Park, computer simulation modeling, stated choice analysis, crowding, carrying capacity


This paper is the second in a sequence of two papers that report on descriptive and prescriptive research undertaken at Isle Royale National Park to support development of a new wilderness management plan at the Park. The first paper reports on the initial phase of study aimed at developing descriptive information on backcountry camping at Isle Royale using computer simulation modeling. The present paper reports on the second phase of research. In this study, management alternatives identified in the first phase of research were incorporated into prescriptive research designed to help managers evaluate the public’s acceptance of consequences associated with these alternatives. A number of prescriptive questions associated with managing backcountry camping at Isle Royale National Park are examined in this study. For example, do visitors consider the costs to visitor freedoms and spontaneity associated with a fixed itinerary system to outweigh the benefits of increasing opportunities to camp out of sight and sound of other groups? Is it in the public’s interest to limit backcountry camping use in order to improve visitors’ chances of finding a vacant campsite each night of a trip? If so, to what extent should use be limited to achieve a greater degree of camping solitude?Study findings suggest that visitors may be willing to forfeit some campsite solitude in order to avoid restrictive limits on visitor use, regulated backcountry camping experiences, and/or the construction of a large number of new campsites in the Park. For example, study results suggest that among four management alternatives evaluated, visitors would be most likely to support those that would not require visitors to follow fixed itineraries or involve building additional campsites, even though visitors may have to share campsites with other groups. These and related findings offer important insights into the relative importance of campsite solitude and the tradeoffs (e.g., reductions in visitor use, more regulation, additional campsite development) that visitors are (or are not) willing to make to achieve it. In this way, the results of the study assist managers in reaching “informed judgements” concerning how to manage backcountry camping at Isle Royale National Park. Further, the research presented in this sequence of papers provides a model for integrating descriptive and prescriptive research findings into the planning and management of parks and wilderness.





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