BWCAW Research, Publications and Articles
Forest Service Publications
A GIS-based approach was used to depict how threats to wilderness character vary in extent and magnitude across the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Based on the interagency strategy to monitor wilderness character, Keeping It Wild: An Interagency Strategy for Monitoring Wilderness Character Across the National Wilderness Preservation System (Landres et al. 2008a), 53 locally relevant measures were identified by the project core team to capture impacts to the five qualities of wilderness character. These measures were depicted using a variety of spatial datasets, which were normalized using a common relative scale such that disparate metrics could be analyzed together. Each measure was “weighted” by the project core team to reflect its relative impact to wilderness character. Maps generated for each of the weighted measures were then added accumulatively to create a combined map delineating the overall spatial pattern and variation of threats to wilderness character across the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. This combined map depicts a wilderness that has not been substantially impacted by threats, with the highest quality wilderness character primarily found away from entry points and travel routes, especially in areas with fewer and smaller lakes; in contrast, the lowest quality wilderness character was highly correlated with lakes that allow motorized use, especially those that are wilderness entry points. The map products presented in this report provide managers with a tool to better understand the extent and magnitude of threats to wilderness character, holistically evaluate tradeoffs associated with decisions and actions in wilderness, and ultimately improve wilderness stewardship.
Mapping Wilderness Character in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (pdf)
The purpose of this study was to determine trends in use and user characteristics at the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Based on data from 1969, 1991, and 2007, the average age of visitors has increased significantly, education levels have increased, and visitors remain predominantly male. Visitors in 2007 report seeing twice as many groups since 1961 and 1991, but the number of encounters are not exceeding expectations. Findings emerged related to gender ratios and evaluating resource conditions. These findings may need further investigation and future management action to provide opportunities for meaningful wilderness experiences while protecting wilderness character.
The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness: Examining Changes in Use, Users, and Management Challenges (pdf)
Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness Superior National Forest Permit & Visitor Use Report 2017-2021
The BWCAW Superior National Forest Permit and Visitor Use Report is updated annually reporting in 5 year increments. Any questions regarding BWCAW visitor use data should be directed to the Supervisor’s Office by calling 218-626-4325.
Journals and Academic Publications
- Rocky Mountain Research Station: Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness: Examining changes in use, users, and management challenges (html)
- International Journal of Wilderness: Structural Constraints to Wilderness - page 14 (html)
- International Journal of Wilderness: Ecosystem Services from Wilderness - page 19 (html)
- International Journal of Wilderness: Keeping Wild in Wilderness - page 13 (html)
- International Journal of Wilderness: Inholdings Within Wilderness - page 9 (html)
- International Journal of Wilderness: Wilderness Managers, Wilderness Scientists, and Universities: A Partnership to Protect Wilderness Experiences in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness - page 41 (html)
- Journal of Forestry: A Synthesis of Economic Values of Wilderness (html)
- Shifting Demand for Winter Outdoor Recreation along the North Shore of Lake Superior under variable rates of Climate Change (html)
- Rocky Mountain Research Station: Mapping Wilderness Character in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness - General Technical Report (html)
- Role of Wilderness Protection and Societal Engagement as Indicators of Well-Being: An Examination of Change at the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (pdf)
David Cole, Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness—A Long History of Management Guided by Science, Journal of Forestry, Volume 114, Issue 3, May 2016, Pages 363–364, https://doi.org/10.5849/jof.15-042 (html)
"The purpose of this case study is to describe the role the BWCAW played in the early development of wilderness science and to show how some of the science conducted there has contributed to good wilderness stewardship."
Selected articles regarding aspects of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness
Sustainable campsite management in protected areas: A study of long-term ecological changes on campsites in the boundary waters canoe area wilderness, Minnesota, USA
Holly Eaglestona,∗, Jeffrey L. Marionba Virginia Tech, 310 W. Campus Dr., Blacksburg, VA 24061, United States USDI
A Synthesis of the Economic Values of Wilderness
Thomas P. Holmes, J.M. Bowker, Jeffrey Englin, Evan Hjerpe, John B. Loomis, Spencer Phillips, and Robert Richardson
Early applications of wilderness economic research demonstrated that the values of natural amenities and commodities produced from natural areas could be measured in commensurate terms. To the surprise of many, the economic values of wilderness protection often exceeded the potential commercial values that might resultfrom resource extraction. Here, the concepts and tools used in the economic analysis of wilderness are described, and the wilderness economic literature is reviewed with a focus on understanding trends in use, value, and economic impacts. Although our review suggests that each of these factors is trending upward, variations in research methods plus large gaps in the literature limit understanding of long-run trends. However, as new data on wilderness use, visitor origins, and spatially referenced features of landscapes are becoming increasingly available, more robust economic analysis of both onsite and offsite wilderness economic values and impacts is now becoming possible.
Celebrating the 50th Anniversay of the Wilderness Act
The National Wilderness Conference Proceedings | Albuquerque, New Mexico | October 15-19, 2014
Naturalness” in Designated Wilderness: Long-Term Changes in Non-Native Plant Dynamics on Campsites, Boundary Waters, Minnesota
Holly A. Eagleston and Jeffrey L. Marion
Wilderness areas in the United States are preserved for their untrammeled naturalness and opportunities for unconfined recreation. The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness has these qualities, but long-term recreation visitation pressures on campsites can cause significant ecological changes. This article explores changes on campsites, specifically examining non-native plant ecology over 3 decades.
Structural Constraints to Wilderness Impacts on Visitation and Experience
Ingrid E. Schneider, Sierra l. Schroeder, and Ann Schwaller
A significant research body on recreation constraints exists, but wilderness constraints research is limited. Like other recreationists, wilderness visitors likely experience a number of constraints, factors that limit leisure preference formation or participation and enjoyment. This project explored how visitors’ experiences with and in wilderness are constrained, and examined responses to those constraints. International Journal of Wilderness
Visitor Attitudes Toward Fire and Wind Disturbances in Wilderness
Robert G. Dvorak and Erin D. Small
Abstract: This study examines visitor attitudes across the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness regarding the effects of natural disturbances on visitor planning and wilderness conditions. Visitors were intercepted at entry points and permit distribution locations during 2007. Results suggest that respondents were aware of recent wind and fire disturbances. Few respondents reported that these events had affected trip plans. Evidence of natural disturbances was evaluated as desirable or indifferent conditions in wilderness. Further investigation of these events related to travel patterns and perceptions may help understand their impacts on visitor use and behavior.