Concepts such as home and community imply an enduring and deeply emotional relationship to a place and people often form similar bonds with specific sites on public forests and wildlands. These bonds may grow simply from frequent use of a particular place on a forest or because some place has come to symbolize something important about a person's identity.
With increasing public interest and involvement in natural resource decision making, land managing agencies need to develop measures and assessments of these emotional and symbolic meanings and attachments. Such assessments are particularly relevant in situations where there is a wide divergence of values and perspectives among stakeholders regarding the appropriate management. Place attachment is being used by land managers to enhance scenic quality assessments, assist recreation managers with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission hydropower re-licensing process, and map public values in fuel treatment planning.
Research on social-symbolic meanings is advancing our understanding of how recreation activity participation contributes to psychological well-being; how attachments to places contribute to a sense of meaning, identity, and community; how attachments vary across culture and affect local management regimes; and how place meanings and attachments affect natural resource conflicts. A key outcome of this work has been the development of standardized questionnaire instruments designed to measure place attachment among recreation site visitors and community residents. These scales allow investigators to describe and quantify the nature and depth of meanings and attachments people have for any place or landscape at a range of geographic scales from campsite to community, and identify stakeholder groups with differing degrees and forms of attachment that may form the underlying basis of conflict between competing groups over natural resource management decisions.
See notes on measuring place attachment for explanations and analysis of survey questions.
Williams, Daniel R. 2008. Pluralities of place: A user's guide to place concepts, theories, and philosophies in natural resource management. In: Kruger, Linda. E.; Hall, Troy E.; Stiefel, Maria C., tech. eds. Understanding concepts of place in recreation research and management. Gen. Tech. Rep. PNW-GTR-744. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station. p. 7-30.
Patterson, M.E., and Williams, D.R. 2005. Maintaining research traditions on place: Diversity of thought and scientific progress. Journal of Environmental Psychology 25:361-380.
Backlund, E., and Williams, D.R. 2004. A quantitative synthesis of place attachment research: Investigating past experience and place attachment. In J. Murdy (comp.). Proceedings of the 2003 Northeast Recreation Research Symposium. Gen. Tech. Rep. NE-GTR-NE-314. Newtown Square, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northeast Research Station. p. 320-325.
Williams, D.R. 2004. Place-identity. In J. Jenkins and J. Pigram (eds.). Encyclopedia of Leisure and Outdoor Recreation. London: Routledge. p. 367-368.
Williams, D.R., and Vaske, J.J. 2003. The measurement of place attachment: Validity and generalizability of a psychometric approach. Forest Science 49(6):830-840.
Kaltenborn, B.P., and Williams, D.R. 2002. The meaning of place: Tourists' versus locals' attachment to Femundsmarka National Park. Norwegian Journal of Geography 56(3):189-198.
Williams, D.R. 2000. Values discourse and discursive democracy in natural resource planning. Paper presented at the 8th International Symposium for Society and Natural Resources. June 17-20, 2000. Bellingham, WA.
Williams, D.R., Riden, C., McDonald, C., and Uysal, M. 1995. Community attachment, regional identity, and resident attitudes towards tourism. In: Proceedings of the 26th Annual Conference of the Travel and Tourism Research Association. June 10-13, 1995. Acapulco, Mexico. p. 424-431.
Williams, D.R. 1995. Mapping place meanings for ecosystem management. Contract Science Report, Interior Columbia Basin Ecosystem Management Project. Walla Walla, WA: Icon Printing. 35 p.
Williams, D.R., Anderson, B.S., McDonald, C.D., and Patterson, M.E. 1995. Measuring place attachment: Some more preliminary results. In: Abstracts of the 1995 Leisure Reserach Symposium. October 5-8, 1995. San Antonio, TX.
Williams, D.R., and Carr, D.S. 1993. The sociocultural meaning of outdoor recreation places. In: A. Ewert, D. Chavez, & A. Magill (eds.). Culture, Conflict and Communication in the Wildland-Urban Interface , Boulder, CO: Westview Press. p. 209-219.
Williams, D.R., Patterson, M.E., Roggenbuck, J.W., and Watson, A.E. 1992. Beyond the commodity metaphor: Examining emotional and symbolic attachment to place. Leisure Sciences 14:29-46.
Williams, D.R., and Roggenbuck, J.W. 1989. Measuring place attachment: Some preliminary results. In: Abstracts of the 1989 Leisure Research Symposium. October 20-24, 1989. San Antonio, TX.