Carrying capacity and visitor management: Facts, values and the role of science

  • Cole D
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For close to a century, concerns have been voiced about both the biophysical and experiential impacts of recreational use on parks and protected areas. In response, managers have grappled with the task of deciding where and how to manage visitor use and scientists have sought to help them. This effort has often been referred to as defining and managing recreational carrying capacity. The carrying capacity literature is voluminous. However, there are widely divergent opinions on the value of this research and on the utility of the carrying capacity concept. Some champion its use as an organizing concept, while others argue that the concept is misleading and counterproductive. This paper attempts to assess progress in grappling with the carrying capacity issues, barriers to and opportunities for further progress, the distinction between facts and values, and the role of science.

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  • David N. Cole

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