Stakeholder Driven Modeling of Coupled Outdoor Recreation and Ecohydrological Systems

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    Hiking Zion Narrows


    Stakeholder Driven Modeling of Coupled Outdoor Recreation and Ecohydrological Systems

    One of the most direct mechanisms through which a changing climate will affect outdoor recreation systems in Utah’s high-desert, arid ecosystems is through altering hydrologic systems. Climate change has begun to exhibit intra-annual effects on hydrologic systems, advancing the onset of runoff to earlier times of the year and decreasing the frequency of winter snowfall events. These effects directly impact the amount and the timing of freshwater in the reservoirs and streams upon which many outdoor recreation activities depend. Despite the fact that hydrologic dynamics and recreation use patterns are both driven by climatic conditions, many natural resource management agencies have a poor understanding of how changing hydrologic conditions affect the recreation systems which they manage.

    This project leverages the experience and expertise of the Institute of Outdoor Recreation and Tourism at Utah State University to provide data and information to the Utah State Office of the Bureau of Land Management. Specifically, this project is designed to help the agency understand and prepare for climate-altered shifts in the demand for river-based recreation within the North Fork of the Virgin River Wilderness Study Area (WSA), which is located adjacent to the eastern boundary of Zion National Park.

    The project involves

        1. documenting and synthesizing previous research into the relationship between climate change and water-based outdoor recreation;
        2. collecting visitor use data on-site within the WSA; and
        3. analyzing the collected data to determine how hydrologic conditions influence demand for river-based recreation within the WSA.

    The overarching goal of the project is to provide the data and information necessary for the Bureau of Land Management to deliver more sustainable and safe outdoor recreation opportunities to their constituents. Ultimately, providing higher-quality outdoor recreation opportunities on Utah’s public lands through rigorous scientific research will improve not only the lives of Utah residents, but also the lasting experiences that out-of-state visitors leave with.