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Popular wilderness area requires intensive management to remain natural


Oct. 17, 2014 – Some 250,000 annual visitors to Minnesota’s Boundary Waters have a significant impact on the campsites along the area’s 1,000 lakes in America’s most visited wilderness area. 

But while tree loss at campsites is huge, the news is not all bad, a Virginia Tech expert on the impacts of recreation on natural resources reported at the National Wilderness Conference in Albuquerque being held through Oct. 19.

In 1982, Jeff Marion, now an adjunct professor in the Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation in the College of Natural Resources and Environment and a recreation ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, surveyed 96 of the 2,200 campsites in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness for his doctoral research.

With funding from his agency and the U.S. Forest Service, which manages the wilderness area, he returned in July 2014 to document the impact of continued use on those sites and to measure recovery on 10 sites that had been closed. 

He was assisted by Holly Eagleston of Wenatchee, Washington, and Jeff Feldhaus of Omaha, Nebraska, doctoral students in the Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation, and field assistant Claire Underwood.

“In addition to documenting over three decades of camping impacts, this study is focused on helping managers make recreational visitation more sustainable,” said Marion.

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