Creating exploratory maps for wilderness impact surveys: Applications in campsite searches

E. Tyson Cross, Paul Evangelista, Melinda Laituri, Peter B. Newman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Camping activities are known to damage vegetation, impede ecological processes, and negatively affect visitor experiences in wilderness areas. Understanding the spatial distribution of wilderness campsites prior to inventory, monitoring, and impact assessments can help direct land managers to minimize costs and use of limited resources. Spatial modeling can be used to create maps to predict the locations of recreational activities and their impacts. Models can be developed based either on a priori knowledge of campsite preferences or on field observations. In both cases the information can be related to environmental attributes (e.g., distance from trails) to predict where campsites are likely to occur. For this study campsite likeliness was predicted with two models: a Recreation Habitat Suitability Index (expert-based) and a Maximum Entropy model (statistics-based). Models tested in this study were selected because of their relative ease of use and potential contribution as a practical management instrument. Evaluations of model results using campsite occurrence coordinates suggested that the models performed equally well and therefore offer resource managers two options to prioritize and conduct impact inventories in wilderness areas. The model results reduced the area needed for campsite searches by at least one-third and highlighted areas of high probability. The resulting maps serve as a planning tool, helping to deploy inventory crews in an organized and efficient manner. These modeling techniques are promising instruments for a broad range of other recreation and wilderness character monitoring activities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalPark Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 1 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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