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Recreation, values and stewardship: Rethinking why people engage in environmental behaviors in parks and protected areas

June 14, 2016

Successfully promoting and encouraging the adoption of environmental stewardship behavior is an important responsibility for public land management agencies. Although people increasingly report high levels of concern about environmental issues, widespread patterns of stewardship behavior have not followed suit (Moore 2002). One concept that can be applied in social science research to explain behavior change is that of values. More specifically, held and assigned values lie at the heart of understanding why people around the world continue to live in unsustainable ways that impact parks and protected areas. A held value is an individual psychological orientation defined by Rokeach as “an enduring belief that a specific mode of conduct or endstate of existence is personally and socially preferable” (1973, 550). Held values are at the core of human cognition, and as such, influence attitudes and behavior. Assigned values on the other hand, according to Brown (1984), are the perceived qualities of an environment that are based on and deduced from held values. In other words, assigned values are considered the material and nonmaterial benefits that people believe they obtain from ecosystems. Held and assigned values predict stewardship behaviors (Figure 1).

During the 2013 George Wright Society Conference on Parks, Protected Areas, and Cultural Sites, we organized a session to improve our understanding of why individuals and groups choose to engage in stewardship behaviors that benefit the environment. We used held and assigned values as vehicles to explore what people cared about in diverse landscapes, review select case studies from across the globe, and question how best to incorporate visitor perspectives into protected area management decisions and policymaking. In addition to sharing project results, we also discussed the importance of accounting for multiple and often competing value perspectives, potential ways to integrate disciplinary perspectives on valuing nature, and future directions for social science research and practice.

In this paper, we present the results from our session to provide fodder for further contemplation about the timely question of how park and protected area managers can foster values that lead to environmental protection.

Publication Year 2016
Title Recreation, values and stewardship: Rethinking why people engage in environmental behaviors in parks and protected areas
Authors Carena J. van Riper, Ryan Sharp, Kenneth J. Bagstad, Wade M. Vagias, Jane Kwenye, Gina Depper, Wayne Freimund
Publication Type Book Chapter
Publication Subtype Book Chapter
Index ID 70170263
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Geosciences and Environmental Change Science Center