Environmental Studies Program


Date of this Version

Spring 5-2019


Outdoor recreation generates nearly $887 billion dollars in annual consumer spending and improves quality of life by promoting physical activity (Oftedal & Schneider, 2013; Outdoor Industry Association, 2017b). This industry relies heavily on the environment and these societal benefits are at risk as climate fluctuates. Drought is a regular component of the Great Plains climate (Miao et al., 2007) and can alter the landscape, changing the demand for outdoor recreation and creating challenges for managing recreation opportunities (USDA, 2017). This thesis explores the influence of drought on individual’s willingness to participate in outdoor recreation, the variation in that influence across landscape types, and related changes in recreation management. A survey comparing drought and non-drought landscapes offers insight into the preferences of outdoor recreationists while interviews with Nebraska Game and Park employees help increase understanding of how drought influences outdoor recreation management strategies. Results show, when given a choice between locations in drought and normal conditions, respondents consistently selected the non-drought location for landscapes with water features. Outdoor recreation managers noticed this relationship between drought and declines in visitation levels and responded with informal management strategies to encourage outdoor recreation during drought. By developing strategies for drought management, managers of outdoor recreation areas may be able to maximize recreation opportunities.