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Impacts of Climate Change on Outdoor Recreation Participation: Outlook to 2060

Ashley E. Askew, J. M. Bowker


Natural resource managers and planners must consider outdoor recreation’s longrun response to shifting population density, sociodemographic factors, land uses, and climate change. Projected rises in greenhouse gases imply changing minimum/ maximum temperatures, potential evapotranspiration, and precipitation. The strong link between natural resource conditions and outdoor recreation suggests that longand short-term recreation planning requires knowledge of which activities and settings will be impacted by climate change. Climate change response is principally an adaptation strategy, as climate cannot be directly managed like park access. Effective planning requires that adaptation or mitigation strategies should be considered for activities and implemented in advance.

We used a two-step approach. The estimation step yielded models of adult participation rates and days-per-participant by activity at regional and national levels. The simulation step combined models with external projections of explanatory variables at 10-year intervals to 2060. Estimates of per capita participation and daysof- participation were combined with population projections to estimate participants and participant-days by activity. Regional and national projections through 2060 were made under three 2010 Resources Planning Act (RPA) Assessment scenarios, varying in population growth rates, socioeconomic conditions, and land uses. Adding in a climate variable generated a second set of projections, accounting for changing temperature, precipitation, or potential evapotranspiration. Nested models allowed comparing the results with and without the climate change, the primary focus of this paper.

Climate change impacts within each scenario were computed using the differences in participation and consumption metrics with and without climate effects, expressed as a percentage relative to 2008 baselines. This computation included the magnitude of change between the 2060 futures with and without climate change, as well as impacts relative to the baseline. A range of plausible climate-related shifts in participation and consumption was created by collapsing scenarios and climate models by activity. We focused on sensitivity to climate change, as projections of activity participation and consumption are already detailed elsewhere (Bowker et al., 2012; Bowker et al., 2013; Bowker & Askew, 2013; Bowker & Askew, 2014).

Recreation will respond differently to warmer futures, increasing potential evapotranspiration, and mixed precipitation outlooks by activity, location, and for participation versus consumption. Snowmobiling and undeveloped skiing (crosscountry skiing and snowshoeing) were the most negatively affected by climate change. Participation in horseback riding on trails could increase. Horseback riding days-ofparticipation could see negative climate impacts nationally. Participation and daysof- participation for both fishing and motorized water activities in the North should increase. Climate change in the Rocky Mountain region will negatively impact motorized water activities, hunting, and fishing, while swimming should be affected positively. The Pacific Coast region shows the most stability, with either small climateinduced shifts or wider ranges which are ambiguous.

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Resources Planning Act; outdoor recreation; climate change; participation; consumption; National Survey on Recreation and the Environment

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