Beavers have become a source of inspiration for public and private land managers over the past decade. Beaver dams can help control flooding, raise groundwater levels, and improve surface water flows. Some land managers are now designing stream restoration projects that mimic the way beaver dams shape river ecosystems. Beaver-related restoration may even help the recovery of endangered species that depend on healthy aquatic and riparian areas.
The approach also holds promise for ranchers who graze livestock on rangelands in the Western United States where drier conditions are expected in the coming years. Those already experimenting with beaver-related restoration are discovering that it can increase water and forage availability for their livestock.
Until recently, the social factors that influence the success or failure of these projects on rangelands were not well understood. To assess the social and regulatory environment associated with this new approach, Susan Charnley, a research social scientist with the USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station, and her colleagues conducted five case studies in California, Idaho, Nevada, and Oregon. Interviews with more than 100 ranchers, nongovernmental organizations, and regulatory agencies shed light on their attitudes and motivations, as well as the regulatory landscape that influences successful implementation. The findings are important for successfully implementing beaver-related restoration projects in other areas.
Public lands provide opportunities and settings for people to experience nature and the outdoors. These outdoor experiences are important for human health and well-being and result in visitor spending that benefits local communities. This report shows that new research, tools, and frameworks are needed to help us find new ways to conceptualize outdoor recreation and enhance the ability of public land managers to provide outdoor experiences while protecting natural and cultural resources. The report originated from a set of 17 working papers that were developed as part of an initiative among researchers, managers, and policymakers to “ignite the science of outdoor recreation.” These papers were presented at a 2018 science workshop in Golden, Colorado, that convened 88 outdoor recreation professionals to explore high-priority issues, information needs, and research directions. Their intent was to stimulate further questions, catalyze new thinking about recreation, and prompt institutional changes in how outdoor recreation and tourism are planned and managed on public lands.
From 2007 through 2017, Oregon implemented an incentive program for biomass collection and production. This research evaluates renewable biomass production and deliveries during a 3-year period (2012 to 2014) in which this tax credit was in place. We evaluated total delivered tons, average payments per load, delivered location, and average transportation distance of woody biomass. We found that total delivered tons of biomass decreased each year between 2012 and 2014, as did the number of users participating in the tax credit program. The average delivered tons, by participant, was more than double in 2014 its level in earlier years, suggesting that fewer, larger entities were participating. We also evaluated differences in biomass delivery, based on receipts, transportation distances, and tons delivered, for each land ownership class. There were statistically significant differences between private and public land ownership for 2012 and 2013 but not for 2014, which included fewer applicants. Our study showed that effective biomass utilization policies need to provide sufficient economic incentives to encourage adoption by both participants and biomass energy producers, and, to be effective, to consider the complete supply chain and type of energy produced. Future economic conditions in Oregon will most likely include rapid changes in renewable energy technologies and fluctuations in fossil fuel prices, and any truly effective renewable energy policies must be sufficiently nimble to account for these and other uncertainties.
This Special Issue addresses the intersections of outdoor recreation, nature-based tourism, and sustainability. Outdoor recreation and nature-based tourism provide essential benefits to individuals, communities, and society and thereby contribute to sustainability. Equitable provision of opportunities, cultural variations in desired experiences, barriers to outdoor recreation, and diverse perceptions of both nature and recreation add to the complexity in outdoor recreation and nature-based tourism service delivery. Outdoor recreation and nature-based tourism occur within a socioecological system with feedback loops to changing social, economic, technological, and ecological conditions. On a global scale, climate change and other disturbance factors are impacting ecosystems and opportunities, increasing the importance of adaptation strategies for longer-term planning. Population growth and regional shifts in demographics and distribution (e.g., urbanization), as well as socioeconomic trends, affect who engages in outdoor recreation and nature-based tourism, opportunities sought, nature access, and governance of outdoor services. Overall the complexity of sustainable outdoor recreation and tourism may suggest a need for different approaches to service delivery, culture change among service providers and managers of natural spaces, and novel approaches to inclusive governance and shared stewardship. Given the clear importance of outdoor recreation and nature-based tourism to society, we invite you to consider this initial introduction to our assembled collection, which is meant to advance our understanding of the intersections of outdoor recreation, nature-based tourism, and sustainability.
A recent expansion in wood energy use at schools in Alaska has resulted in more than a dozen wood energy systems in operation. However, few have been evaluated for fuel efficiency and pollution impacts, both of which can be examined via combustion gas analysis. In this research, we monitored the wood energy system at a public school during winter heating conditions. Wood energy parameters were sampled on three occasions during early, mid, and late winter in northern Alaska. Combustion gas was sampled for a range of parameters that indicated boiler performance, including gas emmissions of oxygen (O2), carbon dioxide (CO2), carbon monoxide (CO), excess air, combustion efficiency, and stack temperature, which were monitored over 6 days. We observed differences in combustion gas composition between seasons as well as the response of combustion efficiency to gas concentrations. Combustion efficiency most strongly correlated with excess air (R2 = 0.693), but poorly correlated with stack temperature (R2 = 0.005). The primary combustion gases (O2, CO2, and CO) were moderately correlated with combustion efficiency (with R2 values of 0.40, 0.56, and 0.55, respectively). Seasonal differences were found between early, mid, and late winter, with generally less variation in combustion gas contents occurring during late winter. Mean combustion gas concentrations also varied with heating season. In all cases, mid-winter means were significantly different than early and late winter values. This research found that more efficient combustion of wood fuels should lead to cost savings, especially during early and late heating seasons. The findings should also be relevant to those of other wood-energy-using schools (in Alaska and elsewhere) that experience severe mid-winter conditions coupled with milder shoulder seasons.
Recreating on public land is increasingly popular in the Pacific Northwest. Recreation management requires balancing opportunities for people to enjoy the outdoors with mitigating the effects on wildlife and other natural resources. Recreation and wildlife managers grappling with these issues asked Forest Service scientists to quantify the impacts of motorized and nonmotorized recreation on elk. Elk are highly valued for hunting and viewing by the public, and as large herbivores, they play a critical role in many ecosystems of the Intermountain West.
A large fenced area within the Starkey Experimental Forest and Range in eastern Oregon provided a unique setting for assessing how a wide-ranging species like elk respond to four types of recreation. Real-time data recorded by telemetry units worn by people and elk alike allowed scientists to establish a cause-effect relationship between human movements and activities and elk responses. Scientists found that elk avoided areas where humans were recreating. This avoidance resulted in habitat compression. All-terrain vehicle use was most disruptive to elk, followed by mountain biking, hiking, and horseback riding. When exposed to these activities, elk spent more time moving rather than feeding and resting.
Land managers can use this information to assess tradeoffs between multiple, and often competing, land uses. When combined with planning efforts that include stakeholder engagement, it may offer a clearer path forward.