Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)


Applied Economics

Department name when degree awarded

Agricultural Economics

Committee Chair(s)

E. Bruce Godfrey


E. Bruce Godfrey


John Workman


Herbert Fullerton


This paper examines formal wilderness designation and is presented in two parts. The first section offers a general classification and comprehensive review of the benefit and cost variables associated with wilderness designation and management. The second section investigates recreation use, which society has historically perceived to be the highest valued element in the network of wilderness benefits.

Variables associated with the benefits of wilderness designation are presented under three major categories: 1) naturalness preservation, 2) solitude or primitive and unconfined types of recreation, and 3) special features of scientific, educational, scenic, or historic value.

Costs attributed to wilderness designation are presented under two major categories: 1) administration/general management costs and 2) opportunity costs.

The second section of this thesis establishes growth rate comparisons of wilderness and non-wilderness recreation use on United States Forest Service lands in Utah, the Intermountain Region, and the overall national Forest Service system from 1967 to 1986. The High Uintas Wilderness area was also analyzed for its use over the same twenty-year period. Data used to measure recreational use at these levels was obtained from United States Forest Service Recreation Information Management records and are measured in recreational visitor days. Growth rate comparisons are measured with respect to recreation use in general terms as well as on a per acre basis at all levels examined.

Because of general trend discrepancies in recreation use over the twenty-year study period, growth rate estimates of recreation use at all levels are also measured with respect to two separate time periods--1967 to 1976 and 1977 to 1986. This analysis shows that non-wilderness/ primitive recreation use per acre increased during the last decade at all levels examined, whereas wilderness/primitive .recreation use per acre showed marked declines during the same period.

Growth rate estimates established on a per acre basis provide a general indication of the marginal value of wilderness and non-wilderness recreation use. This thesis shows that, with respect to recreation use, marginal utility has diminished in designated wilderness since 1977. In contrast, this research also infers that the marginal value for non-wilderness recreation use has increased. These findings suggest that, from a recreation perspective, adding wilderness areas to the National Wilderness Predervation System is unwarranted.