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The Variability of User-Based Social Impact Standards for Wilderness Management

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A key element of wilderness management planning is prescribing standards for acceptable levels of impact or change to wilderness conditions based on input from the public. Specifically, to obtain standards for social impacts, wilderness users are surveyed to determine acceptable levels of encounters with other parties. Using a variance components model and generalizability analysis, this study examines four sources of variation in user-based social impact standards: occasion (on-site vs. mailback surveys), wilderness area, encounter context (type and location of encounter), and respondent. Data come from a survey of visitors to four wilderness areas. Results indicate that social impact standards are generalizable across wilderness areas and to a lesser degree across measurement occasions. As expected, social impact standards vary depending on the context of contact. Contrary to normative theory in sociology, standards are also highly variable across respondents. These results suggest that respondents appear to share a high level of sensitivity to encounters, but that the task of assigning a numerical standard may be too abstract or hypothetical to be meaningful. Generalizability coefficients are reported to provide guidelines to future researchers and wilderness managers for obtaining user-based standards. For. Sci. 38(4):738-756.

Keywords: Generalizability theory; encounter norms; limits of acceptable change; visitor impact management; wilderness

Document Type: Journal Article

Affiliations: USDA Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station

Publication date: November 1, 1992

More about this publication?
  • Forest Science is a peer-reviewed journal publishing fundamental and applied research that explores all aspects of natural and social sciences as they apply to the function and management of the forested ecosystems of the world. Topics include silviculture, forest management, biometrics, economics, entomology & pathology, fire & fuels management, forest ecology, genetics & tree improvement, geospatial technologies, harvesting & utilization, landscape ecology, operations research, forest policy, physiology, recreation, social sciences, soils & hydrology, and wildlife management.
    Forest Science is published bimonthly in February, April, June, August, October, and December.

    2015 Impact Factor: 1.702
    Ranking: 16 of 66 in forestry

    Also published by SAF:
    Journal of Forestry
    Other SAF Publications
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