Breath of Clarity

Mount Whitney Management (Comment)

Original Post by Kevin Ritchie:

The Celtic Rainforest in Wales and Mt Whitney recreational zone are extraordinary outdoor spaces because of their rare ecosystems and fragile ecology. Mt. Whitney is the highest mountain in the contiguous United States and therefore attracts a special amount of adventure seekers to conquer this unique and rigorous wilderness trip. In Wales the Celtic Rainforest is one of the most unique ecosystems considering the moderate climate and rare vegetation, therefore these places are accessed and utilized more than your average outdoor recreation spaces. Pairing the uniqueness of the wilderness area with high usage it requires special management practices in order to keep these spaces pristine.

At Mt. Whitney managers have taken into consideration the high number of visitors which led to the improper disposal of human waste which impacts soil and vegetation. Managers designated Mt Whitney in a special zone where unique regulations were implemented, limiting use which helped the reduction of impact. Permits were rationed and allocated in a way that could reduce the amount of humans in the area during the high seasons. Then using rules and regulations to help curve the impact of the limited amount of people on the trails such as use of WAG bags. Then lastly enforcing these regulations through fines and use restrictions is a way to keep people honest and to maintain visitors following the rules.

The Ecology of these places, as said before, is special and requires a rare approach to maintain these particular areas, the high volume of visitors because of the uniqueness of these locations is the crux of the issue in regard to management. Other places around the country and around the world that have unique and sensitive ecology but do not experience the amount of visitors. I think California is in a very rare place as far as wilderness management because of the amazing amount of attractive wilderness areas and the amount of recreational enthusiasts using them. So using these management tactics is very important to sustain these areas and keep the ecology in tact for the sustainable use in the future.

Manning, Robert. Studies in Outdoor Recreation, 3rd ed.: Search and Research for Satisfaction 3rd Edition. Oregon State University Press, 2010.

YouTube. “Groups in gorges – reconciling conservation and recreation.” Accessed April 6,2021.

Comment by Fenton Kay:

Kevin, very good post. The Welsh folks provide, as I recall, guides to help reduce negative impacts. Do you think such an approach would work well in places like Mt Whitney in the states? Is it possible that such a technique might allow a few more folks onto the mountain while reducing or minimizing impacts?

Comment by Brendan Witt:

Thanks for your interesting post! I think it is certainly interesting to bring in an international perspective. I also thought of some similarities from the Mt. Whitney Zone to hikers and day visitors journeying to Machu Picchu in Peru. Recently, managers at the historic site have instituted a limit on daily users because the volume of foot traffic was, as I understand it, creating microsismic activity (Anasty 2017) that threatened the structural integrity of the ancient city. This is a level of trampling impact that I think exceeds the issues studied by Monz et al. (2008, 555), but is I think relevant to our discussion of recreational impacts and Mt. Whitney. This permitting system has also led Peru to urge tourists to track to another, less known ancient city to disperse traffic.

In Peru, like Dr. Kay mentions in reference to Wales, guides are required to access the site to help minimize harm. While that might seem unique to a World heritage site of Macchu Picchu’s renown, many states in the US require guides for backcountry or wilderness hunt privileges, and guides are common on popular alpine accents. What other unique restrictions does the Celtic Rainforest implement that might be useful for management of the sites?

Thanks for your post!


Anasty, Tim. 2017 “Peru addresses Machu Picchu overcrowding with permit system” CLAD News.” June 22, 2017.,the%20UnescoLinks to an external site.%20World%20Heritage%20site.&text=The%20move%20will%20help%20Machu,flow%E2%80%9D%20according%20to%20the%20Ministry.

Monz, Christopher, A. Cole, David Leung, and N. Marion. “Sustaining Visitor Use in Protected Areas: Future Opportunities in Recreation Ecology Research Based on the USA Experience.” Environmental Management 45, no. 3 (2010): 551-62.

My Comment:

Hi Kevin,

Excellent account of the Celtic Rainforest in Wales. I was specifically impressed with how the video gently communicated ways visitors can sustain the lives of rare vegetation there. The video would be great to make mandatory for people to watch before embarking on the trail. The video started with some action footage of people doing some epic kayaking which is a good attention-grabber for the thrill seekers who would be most likely to deviate away from the regulations. It then goes to explaining the climate in that part of Wales so that the visitors can feel they have a contextual understanding of the area in general which would hopefully make them feel more comfortable and want to respect the terrain. It also shows how the Atlantic woodlands are unique and then transitions into speaking about its rarity. Some other particular strengths of the video are that it outlined the rare types of mosses and ferns, discussed how the Black-eyed Susan got its name, provided reasoning for people to walk in single file rather than create their own new alternative trails, and distinguished between how non-trail ground cover looks compared to the trails. At the end of the video, the narrator then clearly goes over the rules again. I love at the end when the narrator tells visitors to take their time, stop, smell and look around. If not anything else, people need that reminder to go slow and it supports them to not destroying the precious vegetation. All in all, visitors who are excited to be on a pristine excursion such as this one would love the opportunity to learn about the place they’re going when it’s communicated in this tone.


YouTube. “Groups in gorges – reconciling conservation and recreation.” Accessed June 16, 2019.