Managers of protected areas have a diverse array of options available to assist in the difficult task of balancing resource protection and recreation provision mandates. Management options include general strategies, such as modifying visitor behavior or restricting visitation, and more specific actions, such as maintaining trails or establishing group size limits. The diversity of recreation management problems and potential management approaches results in considerable complexity for managers of natural areas. We present a classification system which organizes and describes general strategies and substrategies or options for the management of primitive camping. The advantages and disadvantages of these strategies for minimizing camping impacts and enhancing the visitor experience are discussed.
Specifically, four general camping management strategies include area closure, open (unregulated) camping, dispersed camping, and designated site camping. For example, dispersed camping seeks to reduce resource impacts by reducing the frequency of site use to levels which cause no lasting biophysical changes. Dispersed camping can promote visitor experience objectives by encouraging visitors to camp out of sight and sound of developed areas, trails, attraction features, and other occupied campsites. Numerous dispersal substrategies are possible. Dispersal can be promoted by "advertising" less frequently visited areas or by de-emphasizing more popular locations in agency literature or personal contacts with visitors. Alternately, these media can be used to educate and instruct visitors to select less visited areas and to avoid popular destination points. Quotas on visitor numbers can be established to shift visitation away from popular entry points or travel zones. Regulations can restrict camping within popular areas or within sight or a specified distance from trails or other campsites. Educational or regulatory substrategies may also be used to encourage temporal dispersal of visitors, shifting additional visitation to weekdays or off-seasons. Clearly, a substantial array of options exist and it is seldom clear which specific strategy or action will be the most effective in achieving management objectives.
We both develop and apply this camping management classification system to camping management information gathered as part of a nationwide survey of National Park Service (NPS) units. A request for all relevant backcountry and wilderness camping information was sent to 101 NPS units with substantial backcountry resources and overnight visitation. Information pertinent to backcountry camping management was extracted from this literature to characterize and classify the camping management strategies and actions employed at each park unit. These results are summarized and presented to illustrate and describe the range of options available to managers and their frequency of application.