Nevada celebrated its fifth annual Public Lands Day over the weekend with events and free entry to the park, all designed to bring more people outside. However, a new report in the journal Global environmental change estimates that as the planet warms due to climate change, the demand for outdoor recreation on public lands may decrease.
This could have significant impacts on Nevada, a state that brings in billions of dollars from the outdoor recreation industry every year.
Dr Emily Wilkins is the lead author of the study, and she spoke about the research with KUNR Morning edition host Noah Glick.
Noah Glick: Tell me about the study. What led to this work? What were you trying to find out? And finally, what did you find out?
Dr Emily Wilkins: There have been other studies that have looked at the impact of weather and climate on specific parks, often looking at national parks and how that might impact attendance at a certain park. , like Zion, but no one had looked across the whole of the United States yet, sort of [the] different types of public land, what could be the effects of climate and climate change. So I thought that was a really important question.
My study looked at all state and federal lands – so state parks, national forests, national parks, Bureau of Land Management lands, National Wildlife Refuges – to really see how the effects might be on a large scale depending. seasons.
Glick: What would be the main points to remember? What did you find? What were the big differences between the seasons [and] among the regions?
Wilkins: So, across the United States, we found that in the summer, as the temperatures warmed up, we expected fewer visits to many parks and protected areas. I guess in a lot of places it’s going to be too hot that people won’t necessarily want to visit in the summer.
But we have seen the opposite in winter. So in winter, as temperatures continue to warm up, more people will want to visit parks and protected areas in winter than they have in the past.
Glick: Based on your modeling, it looks like our area could experience a drop in demand almost every season. Can you just break down what we‘do you see here in our area? What does the future look like for public lands in Nevada and California?
Wilkins: In this region in particular, we would expect to see the biggest drops in the summer – which makes sense because it’s already a fairly warm area – with slightly smaller drops in the fall, spring, and then none. change in winter. in this region.
But this also only takes into account the increase in temperatures. There are a lot of other factors that could also affect demand. For example, population growth or where people travel increases demand. More people will recreate if there is a higher population in the area. So it’s not the only thing that’s going to have an impact on park attendance, but it’s one of many different factors.
Glick: If demand for public land use decreases due to climate change, what impact does this have on tourism for western states that depend on people visiting national parks, state parks , coming to the state to recreate itself outside?
Wilkins: Yeah, so this study was only about increasing temperatures, but of course that has a lot more implications for public lands, including the increased prevalence of wildfires – either just people not wanting to going to places that have been recently burned down perhaps or with smoke from forest fires closes places – or other types of more common natural disasters.
Now, even things like drought can impact people who wish to participate in water recreation or the shift in species distribution can impact people who wish to observe wildlife, hunt or fish. Of course, the timing of fishing could change in the future as spring runoff occurs earlier and stream temperatures increase; there may be different times and places for people to participate in different types of activities.
If people stopped visiting altogether it would have a very negative economic impact, obviously, but I don’t think people are going to stop visiting public lands. I don’t think they’re going to stop going on vacation. I think what’s going to happen is we’re going to see a change in the times of the year that people visit. So instead of always going on vacation in the summer, people could go in the winter instead.
I think it’s just going to change the way people recreate themselves, maybe the activities they do, where and when they visit, and I think Gateway Cities need to be prepared for that as well. Some gateways may only keep businesses open during peak visitor season, which if it’s summer [is] From May to September, then they stop in winter. So if they really want to capitalize on these changes that might occur and keep revenues stable, it would make sense to keep businesses open year round or longer periods in the future, as the climate continues to improve. warm up.
Glick: Reporting on climate change, you always have the impression that it’s pessimistic. Is there any hope that you were able to get out of this study? I mean, it doesn’t‘it doesn’t look like it‘This is bad news.
Wilkins: Yeah. I think certain types of people might actually have more opportunities to recreate themselves on public land. For example, people who really like mountain biking. As the climate warms up and there is less snow, it also extends the mountain biking or hiking season.
So it’s not necessarily good for everyone, but I think certain groups of people may have longer seasons where you can be outside – and I think that’s positive.
Editor’s Note: This interview has been edited slightly for grammar and clarity.