Natural resource managers need up-to-date information about how people interact with public lands and the meanings these places hold for use in planning and decisionmaking. The Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service jointly manage Browns Canyon National Monument and are preparing a land management plan for this popular destination in Colorado. The agencies wanted know how visitors use the monument and which places hold special value to visitors.
Human ecology mapping, a process developed in part by Lee Cerveny, a social scientist with the Pacific Northwest Research Station, uses maps, aerial photos, and other spatial images to elicit stories from participating members of the public and identify valued locations across the landscape. When digitized, this socio-spatial data layer informs lands managers and resource planners about the variety of public uses and landscape connections and their spatial distribution. Originally used in national forests throughout the Pacific Northwest, in the past 3 years, station scientists have further adapted these approaches to make them relevant for other eco-regions and to support planning efforts by other federal land management agencies.
When applied to Browns Canyon National Monument, human ecology mapping revealed important trends in human interaction with monument roads,waterways, trails, day-use sites, and campgrounds. Visitors hold diverse values and attachments to the landscape, with emphasis on recreation (whitewater boating, hiking) and visiting historic sites. Local residents were more likely to visit places throughout the entire monument while visitors from nearby metropolitan areas frequented destinations close to major thoroughfares. The study resulted in a landscape assessment report submitted to the Bureau of Lands Management as well as presentations of findings to community officials and stakeholders in Salida, Colorado.