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    Understanding how setting attributes influence the nature of the visitor experience is crucial to effective recreation management. Highly influential attributes are useful indicators to monitor within a planning framework, such as Limits of Acceptable Change. This study sought to identify the setting attributes perceived to have the most profound effect on the ability to have "a real wilderness experience" and to assess the degree to which attribute importance varied with situational context and visitor characteristics. To this end, exiting hikers were surveyed at moderate and very high use trailheads in Alpine Lakes Wilderness, WA (USA), and Three Sisters Wilderness, OR (USA). They were asked about the degree to which encountering varying levels of different setting attributes would add to or detract from their experience. Attributes with the largest range of effect on experience, based on evaluations of different levels, were considered most important. The most influential attributes were litter and several types of campsite interaction - people walking through camp and number of other groups camping close by. The perceived importance of setting attributes did not vary much between wilderness locations with substantially different use levels, suggesting that conclusions are robust and generalizable across wilderness areas. There also was little difference in the perceptions of day and overnight visitors. In contrast, we found substantial variation in the perceived importance of setting attributes with variation in wilderness experience, knowledge, attachment, and motivation. Our results validate the emphasis of many wilderness management plans on indicators of social interaction, such as number of encounters.

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    Cole, David N.; Hall, Troy E. 2009. Perceived effects of setting attributes on visitor experiences in wilderness: Variation with situational context and visitor characteristics. Environmental Management. 44: 24-26.


    indicators, limits of acceptable change, recreation management, social interaction, wilderness experience

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