Natural Resources, School of


First Advisor

Mark A. Kaemingk

Second Advisor

Kevin L. Pope

Date of this Version



DaRugna, O.A. 2020. Recreational Activity Dynamics at Valentine National Wildlife Refuge. M.S. Thesis. University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Science, Major: Natural Resource Sciences, Under the supervision of Professors Mark A. Kaemingk and Kevin L. Pope. Lincoln, Nebraska: May, 2020

Copyright (c) 2020 Olivia A. DaRugna


Many parks and protected areas are managed for a dual purpose to conserve ecological systems and to provide wildlife-compatible recreational opportunities for visitors. Managing parks and protected areas to meet this dual goal entails progressive management approaches that incorporate information about social and ecological components of these systems. Current management regimes focus heavily on the ecological component with little or no information concerning the social component of parks and protected areas. Incorporating social information is essential for understanding and accounting for social conflicts and ecological impacts that result from a diversity of recreational activities. We examined recreational activities at Valentine National Wildlife Refuge (VNWR) in Nebraska to understand the social aspect of this social-ecological system. We distributed surveys onsite at VNWR during a one-year collection period. We examined the frequency, sociodemographics, and potential for social conflicts and ecological impacts of consumptive (i.e., hunting), intermediate-consumptive (i.e., fishing), and non-consumptive (i.e., wildlife watching, touring, hiking, photography, and environmental education) groups. Valentine National Wildlife Refuge supports heterogeneous recreational-activity groups, which vary in frequency and potential for social conflicts and ecological impacts. The intermediate-consumptive group was the predominate recreational-activity group on VNWR. Delphi methodology was used to measure potential social conflicts and ecological impacts of different recreational activities. Based on the consensus reached using the Delphi method, the consumptive group had the greatest potential for social conflicts and ecological impacts. We subsequently applied the potential social conflicts and ecological impacts caused by different recreational-activity groups to evaluate social and ecological intensities across space and time on VNWR. Social and ecological intensities varied across lake types and seasons, highlighting intense impact areas and periods on the refuge. Valentine National Wildlife Refuge permits diverse recreational opportunities that necessitate a multi-faceted management regime to fulfill the dual purpose. Realizing and accounting for the different recreational activities and coinciding social and ecological intensities will allow parks and protected area managers the ability to concomitantly preserve ecological resources, prioritize conservation efforts, and minimize visitor conflicts.

Advisors: Mark A. Kaemingk and Kevin L. Pope