Date of Award

5-2012

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Legacy Department

Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management

Advisor

Hallo, Jeffrey C

Committee Member

Moore , DeWayne D

Committee Member

Powell , Robert B

Committee Member

Wright , Brett A

Abstract

Novel biophysical impacts from a rapidly changing climate are influencing resources in many parks and protected areas that host nature-based recreation. In addition to climate impacts, renewable energy initiatives (e.g., wind farms) aimed to mitigate climate change are increasingly converging with nature-based recreation areas. Climate impacts and climate change mitigation efforts in nature-based recreation areas have the capacity to influence individual and collective experiences, attitudes, and potentially behaviors. However, little is known about nature-based recreationists' interactions with climate-influenced resources, and how these interactions may influence perceptions of climate change and attitudes towards mitigation efforts. This dissertation addresses this lack of knowledge by extending previous examinations of climate-related park and protected area visitor studies to include nature-based recreationists' current interactions with climate-influenced resources and their attitudes towards current mitigation initiatives.
This dissertation represents a substantial contribution to the field because past social research pertaining to climate change in nature-based recreation areas has focused on contingency models and predictive displays of probable future ecological impacts and possible responses from visitors and recreationists. This dissertation research took a different approach, and assessed current perceptions of climate change and attitudes towards climate change mitigation efforts in nature-based recreation areas. Three distinct sites (an iconic national park, a drought influenced reservoir, and a regional tourist destination) housing different recreation populations were carefully selected for study. A mixed-methods approach was applied in each scenario. The findings suggest that climate change perceptions and attitudes towards mitigation vary across different user groups and regions, can change during the course of an experience, and are influenced by place attachment and place-based interactions. As nature-based recreation areas become increasingly impacted by changing climatic conditions and mitigation efforts, the studies presented here provide a valuable framework for conducting future research about perceptions of climate change and attitudes towards climate change mitigation in nature-based recreation areas.

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