Long-‐‐term changes in resource conditions on backcountry campsites in Prince William Sound, Alaska, USA

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Northwest Science

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Campsites in Prince William Sound, Alaska USA were monitored over a period of thirteen years for changes in resource conditions. We used standard campsite assessment protocols to determine changes in vegetation cover loss, campsite size, condition class and several other measures of resource conditions. The most recent data indicates that impacts such as multiple trailing, tree and shrub damage and large sites remain prevalent in the study area. The intensity and extent of impact tend to vary by environment type, with campsites on soil substrates in upland forests exhibiting less vegetation cover loss, mineral soil exposure and total area of impact than campsites found on cobble substrates with beach grass vegetation. Comparative analyses of resource conditions over time suggest increases in areal extent of impact, including the development of new sites, but decreases in impact intensity. These findings suggest that over the long term in Prince William Sound, the at-large camping strategy may not be effective at containing site spread and proliferation, impacts often considered the most important to limit. The study results, field observations over the duration of the study, and established recreation use-impact theory suggest that confining camping activities to already impacted cobble substrates devoid of vegetation will result in the least additional disturbance. The results have region-wide implications for the management of coastal recreation in Alaska and throughout the Northwest, given the similarity of environments and management strategies.

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