Forest Recreationists and Environmentalism


  • Brijesh Thapa
  • Alan R. Graefe


Forest Recreationists, Environmental Attitudes and Behaviors


Since outdoor recreationists are in direct contact with nature, it is assumed that they should show environmental concern and awareness. If participation in outdoor recreation activities stimulates or increases environmental concern and/or proenvironmental behaviors, this bodes well for the future of environmental movement. However, empirical research has offered somewhat mixed support for the association of participation in outdoor recreation activities and proenvironmental attitudes, while other studies have shown fairly strong support for proenvironmental behaviors. The purpose of this study was to extend current knowledge regarding the effect of participation in outdoor recreation activities (appreciative-consumptive-motorized) and environmentalism (attitudes and behaviors). Three hypotheses representing the effect of participation in outdoor recreation on environmental attitudes and behaviors were formulated and tested. The study was conducted at Bald Eagle State Forest in central Pennsylvania between June, 1999 and March, 2000. On-site interviews and windshield surveys were used. Environmental attitudes were operationalized with the 15-item revised New Ecological Paradigm scale, and behaviors were operationalized using a series of 15 proenvironmental behaviors. Four attitudinal items dealing with local management issues were also examined. Outdoor recreation participation focused on the respondents’ “most important activity.” Forest visitors were predominantly Caucasian males from rural areas, with a high school education or less, and a combined household income of under $30,000. Hunting, fishing, and snowmobiling were the most popular activities. The results of this study supported previous literature; those participants involved with appreciative activities were more likely to uphold stronger proenvironmental orientations. For example, respondents whose most important activity was appreciative were significantly more involved in green consumerism behaviors. Motorized recreationists showed more desire for environmental dominance. Consumptive recreationists were usually the intermediate group. Sometimes they were more like the appreciative participants, as in their high participation in environmental educational behaviors, while at other times they were aligned with the motorized recreationists, as in their relatively low rates of participation in green consumerism behaviors. The results for the items dealing with local management issues also reflect the underlying interests of the various recreation activity groups (e.g. consumptive recreationists were most supportive of fish stocking efforts, and motorized recreationists were least supportive of setting more public lands aside as wild or natural areas). The variability in values, ethics, and subsequent environmental attitudes and behaviors among outdoor recreationists may pose major challenges to public land managers. Knowledge of public environmental attitudes and behaviors can help managers to alleviate conflict between recreationists. In this study, both attitudes and behaviors were analyzed as multidimensional constructs, with varying results for different dimensions. Future research is needed to verify the attitudinal and behavioral dimensions and to examine specific activities rather than using the appreciative-consumptivemotorized orientation framework. Particular attention should be devoted to attitudes and behaviors that are more closely tied to outdoor recreation, such as attitudes toward land preservation and resource management practices.





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