Original Post by Samantha Krieger:
Visitor education is a light-handed management approach that is “designed to persuade visitors to adopt behaviors that are compatible with recreation management objectives, usually to reduce the ecological and experiential impacts of outdoor recreation” (Manning 2010, 279). This approach tends to be favored by visitors; however, its effectiveness varies based on the types of management problems being encountered (Manning 2010, 279-280). Education is effective in situations of unskilled or uninformed actions, but in situations where the management problem is illegal activity, careless actions, or unavoidable actions, the effectiveness of visitor education drops considerably (Manning 2010, 280). When looking at visitor education in relation to moral development, those who would respond well to education and are just unskilled or uninformed are generally more altruistic, with greater principles of justice and fairness, making them more likely to respond to emphasizing the rationale for behaviors that appeal to one’s sense of morality and justice (Manning 2010, 281). In contrast, visitors who partake in illegal, careless, or unavoidable actions are likely to be at a lower level of moral development, making them more likely to respond to extrinsic rewards and punishments for certain behaviors (Manning 2010, 281).
The relationship between visitor education and moral development implies that a successful information and education program would need to be designed to reach visitors at each stage of moral development (Manning 2010, 280). This indicates that effective education programs will need to be multi-dimensional, providing information on the importance of conscious behavior when partaking in outdoor recreation in sensitive ecosystems, providing information directly from authoritative sources, and having a punishment/fine system for necessary situations. As discussed in the previous four weeks of class, expanding management to include informative rangers and effective punishments can put increased strain on recreation managers’ already stretched resources. Managers at Petrified Forest National Park have used education to deal with an impact-based issue regarding the theft of their petrified wood (Manning et al. 2017, 107). To combat this issue, Petrified Forest managers have implemented a plan designed to target visitors at each of the stages of moral development. From the moment visitors enter Petrified Forest until the moment they leave, they are presented with information on the importance of preserving the natural resources in the park, like the preserved wood, appealing to visitors with a strong sense of justice and fairness (Manning et al. 2017, 107; Manning 2010, 281). At the entrance to the park visitors are greeted by an attendant who also disseminates the message about the importance of preserving and protecting the park’s resources, and before exiting they are stopped by an attendant who asks whether anything has been taken from the park, both presenting the message through an authority figure to increase the effectiveness of the message (Manning et al. 2017, 108; Manning 2010, 281). For those who are not moved by moral sentiment or authority, visitors are also clearly educated on the fines that are associated with the damage or removal of any petrified wood in the park, ensuring that there is the motivation for all to follow preservation regulation (Manning et al. 2017, 107).
Manning, Robert. Studies in Outdoor Recreation, 3rd ed.: Search and Research for Satisfaction 3rd Edition. Oregon State University Press, 2010.
Manning, Robert E., Laura E. Anderson, and Peter R. Pettengill. 2017. Managing Outdoor Recreation: Case Studies in the National Parks. Wallingford: CAB International.
Comment by Fenton Kay:
Good stuff, Samantha. What sorts of tools do you think are most effective for getting the educational/moral/ethical message across to the broad public (the skinny one’s also :O}>). How do managers determine if their “preaching” is effective?
Comment by Samantha Krieger:
I think as far as spreading moral or educational methods, the relaying of educational information through indirect sources or direct messages from authority figures is the way to go. Fines and punishment may be a successful form of prevention of rule-breaking, but they are not causing people to raise the standards of their personal moral codes. As far as determining if these methods have been effective, as someone with an anthropology background I would say the proof is in the observational pudding. As people with some of the closest and most consistent relationships with that patch of land, it is up to landscape managers to monitor impacts. If their methods are effective, they should see the impact in a slightly lessened impact on the landscape, whether it be less litter, less vegetation damage, or more evenly distributed use patterns.
Great point in saying educational programs need to be designed to resonate with people who have a variety of moral codes. One key question to consider is the cares of the people who are not simply altruistic. In order to grab there attention in education materials, I wonder which specific dimensions would be useful to incorporate into the programming. Maybe they are concerned with the physical dangers associated with going off trail or would rather spend their time going to a section of the hike that has the most interesting vegetation and also happens to be well-staffed with park rangers. Or, maybe they are concerned with ways they would uncontrollably get caught, such as being filmed on camera, in addition to the consequences of getting caught.