Personal wilderness relationships: Building on a transactional approach

Robert G. Dvorak, William T. Borrie, Alan E. Watson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Wilderness managers are charged with the challenging goal of balancing resource protection and experience quality across a broad, value-laden landscape. While research has provided insight into visitors' motivations and their meanings for wilderness, a struggle exists to implement experiential concepts within current management frameworks. This research posits the human experience of wilderness to be an evolving, enduring relationship, and that research needs can be addressed by conceptualizing and investigating an individuals' personal wilderness relationship. The purpose of this study was to explore wilderness relationships of visitors to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. A predictive model was proposed to investigate the internal dimensions of a visitor's wilderness relationship. A mail-back questionnaire was distributed during the summer of 2007, resulting in a sample of 564 respondents. Data were analyzed using confirmatory factor analysis and structural equation modeling. Results from testing several relationship models provided support for a multidimensional structure consisting of five factors with a single overarching relationship factor. The preferred relationship model indicated the importance of identities and attachment in place relationships. Trust and commitment toward management were also important considerations. This research provided the preliminary evidence for a multidimensional wilderness relationship model and complements a perspective of wilderness experiences as wilderness. Findings may help to reframe decision-making and public-input processes that guide management actions to increased wilderness character protection and facilitate quality wilderness experiences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1518-1532
Number of pages15
JournalEnvironmental Management
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2013


  • Commitment
  • Place attachment
  • Relationships
  • Trust
  • Wilderness
  • Wilderness management


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