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Webinar: Recreation Impacts, Planning, and Management

June 8 @ 12:00 13:00 MDT

People appreciate and enjoy Alberta’s natural spaces in myriad ways from boating and 4×4 driving to hiking and picnicking. This diversity in forms and intensity of recreation across the landscape creates various management challenges. Management usually aims to ensure people have adequate access to recreational opportunities and the natural ecosystem remains intact and species are not adversely impacted. This is hard. Research quantifying the impacts of recreation and best management practices is continually evolving.

Join us as we explore some of the latest research coming out of Alberta and BC that helps inform recreation management.

This webinar is designed to compliment our Recreation Planning workshop where we put you in the drivers seat to design a recreation network. Attend the webinar to learn a bit of background and put your new knowledge to the test at the workshop!

This webinar is FREE to all, but a suggested donation of $2-$5 is welcome.

Speakers and Abstracts

Human impacts on mammals in and around a protected area before, during, and after COVID-19 lockdowns.

Michael Procko, University of British Columbia

The dual mandate for many protected areas (PAs) to simultaneously promote recreation and conserve biodiversity may be hampered by negative effects of recreation on wildlife. However, reports of these effects are not consistent, presenting a knowledge gap that hinders evidence-based decision-making. We used camera traps to monitor human activity and terrestrial mammals in Golden Ears Provincial Park and the adjacent University of British Columbia Malcolm Knapp Research Forest near Vancouver, Canada, with the objective of discerning relative effects of various forms of recreation on cougars (Puma concolor), black bears (Ursus americanus), black-tailed deer (Odocoileus hemionus), snowshoe hares (Lepus americanus), coyotes (Canis latrans), and bobcats (Lynx rufus). Additionally, public closures of the study area associated with the COVD-19 pandemic offered an unprecedented period of human-exclusion through which to explore these effects. Using Bayesian generalized mixed-effects models, we detected negative effects of hikers (mean posterior estimate = -0.58, 95% credible interval (CI) -1.09 to -0.12) on weekly bobcat habitat use and negative effects of motorized vehicles (estimate = -0.28, 95% CI -0.61 to -0.05) on weekly black bear habitat use. We also found increased cougar detection rates in the PA during the COVID-19 closure (estimate = 0.007, 95% CI 0.005 to 0.009), but decreased cougar detection rates (estimate = -0.006, 95% CI -0.009 to -0.003) and increased black-tailed deer detection rates (estimate = 0.014, 95% CI 0.002 to 0.026) upon reopening of the PA. Our results emphasize that effects of human activity on wildlife habitat use and movement may be species- and/or activity-dependent, and that camera traps can be an invaluable tool for monitoring both wildlife and human activity, collecting data even when public access is barred. Further, we encourage PA managers seeking to promote both biodiversity conservation and recreation to explicitly assess trade-offs between these two goals in their PAs.

Biosketch: Michael Procko is a Research Scientist with the Prugh Lab at the University of Washington, where he works with the Washington Department of Natural Resources and the Tulalip Tribes to investigate impacts of recreation on elk. Previously, Michael acquired his Master’s of Science in the Wildlife Coexistence Lab at the University of British Columbia, where he used camera traps to assess impacts of recreation and forest harvest on cougars, black bears, black-tailed deer, snowshoe hares, coyotes, and bobcats in a protected area and an adjacent research forest. Michael also has prior experience working on cougar and mule deer management in Colorado, and he obtained a Bachelor’s in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of Colorado, where his research involved wolf population management in Yellowstone National Park. 

Grande Cache recreation ecology project.

Courtney Hughes, Alberta Environment and Parks

Grande Cache is a small hamlet located adjacent to Willmore Wilderness Park, in the Rocky Mountain and Foothills natural regions of western Alberta. The area includes river valleys, rolling foothills, grassy meadows and mixed forests of aspen, lodgepole pine, white spruce and balsam poplar. The area is home to woodland caribou, bull trout, Arctic grayling, moose, elk, grizzly and black bears, barred owl, lynx and cougars, and wolverine. Given the panoramic mountain views, clear streams and endless adventure opportunities, Grande Cache public lands and Willmore Wilderness Park see an increasing number of visitors annually – and this is growing. Recreation use across the area includes hiking and horseback riding, mountain biking, off- and on-highway vehicle use, e-biking and more. While adventure awaits, recreational land use is not without its impacts. Given the increasing need to consider ecologically sustainable recreation opportunities across an already busy landscape, while attend to human safety, visitor desires and potential tourism growth, Alberta Environment and Parks together with Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute are using remote cameras to understand human recreation across the landscape, and how this may affect wildlife and habitat. To date, 41 remote cameras have been deployed, focusing on trails and recreational staging locations, collecting human use data over the next few years. Based on preliminary findings from 2021 we have observed fairly distinctive wildlife avoidance patterns on trails during peak human use times (e.g., June through to October). Preliminary data also indicates which trails are most popular by use type, with the top three uses including hiking, horseback riding and off-highway vehicles. This is a multi-year project, and we are deploying additional cameras this season to further understand wildlife response to human recreational activities in the area. Results from this project will be used to inform recreation planning and management across the area, for conservation values and user experience and visitation. Additionally, this information will be used for targeted educational outreach, particularly with regards to safe trail use, wheels out of water, bear safety, and more.  

Biosketch: Courtney Hughes is a Senior Biodiversity and Landscape Specialist with Alberta Environment and Parks, located in Grande Cache. She is also an independent conservation scientist, and in both roles conducts applied research and uses interdisciplinary approaches to conservation problems including human-wildlife conflicts, community-based conservation and engagement, and educational outreach and citizen science. Courtney also has experience in policy development, implementation and evaluation, as well as land use planning. Among other teaching experiences, Courtney is also a visiting lecturer for Oxford University’s Wildlife Conservation and Research Unit.

All good relationships need good communication. Presenting a recent systematic review of environmental communication interventions.

Clara-Jane (CJ) Blye, University of Alberta

Environmental communication interventions are employed in parks and protected areas to influence visitors’ environmental behaviours with the goal of increasing environmental protection. However, much still needs to be studied to understand what interventions work, how, and why. We recently conducted a systematic review seeking to better understand what communication intervention strategies are being used and evaluated their efficacy. This talk will focus on the outcomes of 54 empirical studies, published in English-language peer-reviewed journals where communication interventions were used to foster visitors’ pro-environmental intentions or actual behaviours. Within the studies included in our review personal interpretation shows the most success influencing behaviours and behavioural intentions, with 50% of studies demonstrating positive outcomes and the other 50% reporting mixed results (with some level of efficacy). This is inline with other recent studies such as Settina et al. (2020) who found that personal communication was the most effective tool in communicating low-impact camping practices and other recent communication reviews (Stern et al., 2020). Other relevant findings highlight the need to focus on message content such as local topics and issues, messages that target park visitors’ emotions, as well as message that communicate the ecological impact or the “why” behind specific behaviours (Ardoin et al., 2020; Brown at el., 2010; Kidd et al., 2015; Jacobs & Harns, 2014). Finally, we present new ideas and strategies for parks and protected areas to consider such as visitors pledges, post-visit action resources, and digital communication
such as social media and the use of virtual reality.

Biosketch: Clara-Jane (CJ) Blye is a Recreation Management faculty member at Dalhousie University and She is also completing her PhD at the University of Alberta in the Faculty of Kinesiology, Sport, and Recreation. CJ’s research is focused on outdoor recreation policy, park management, environmental psychology, and connections to nature. She uses mixed methods in her research and has a strong applied focus to her work. CJ has worked with NGO’s and park agencies such as Parks Canada, Alberta Parks, and Ontario Parks to develop theoretical and practical research that park managers can use in developing policies and strategies. She has advanced statistically training and expertise in survey development and implementation strategies. Currently, she is looking at visitor motivations and experiences of New Canadians visiting Elk Island National Park.

PO BOX 4990
Edmonton AB
T6E 5G8

Professional refers to someone who works with wildlife and/or their habitats in a professional setting.

In this context, it is not in reference to a legal professional designation.

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