Smoke Does Little To Scare Off Campers On Public Lands, Report Suggests
Camping season and wildfire season overlap. But smoke doesn't appear to scare off many campers on public lands, according to a new report from the nonprofit research firm Resources for the Future.
By comparing campground data in the West to wildfire, smoke and air quality data over a 10-year period, the researchers found that campground use declines in response to fire and smoke—but by very little.
For example, average occupancy rates only dropped by 1.3 percentage points when smoke was bad. That has researcher Margaret Walls concerned that campers are being exposed to poor air quality, especially since camping involves an extended period of time outside.
"People are learning more, there are more stories about the health effects [of smoke]. So it'll be interesting to see if that changes," she said.
Walls speculated that one reason visitors aren't willing to cancel camping plans may have to do with how competitive it is, or constraints on vacation times.
"You're going to continue to make the trip because otherwise you're not going to get in," she said, since reservations at popular parks are hard to come by, and most have a limited season.
The paper suggests federal land management agencies consider several policies to reduce the impacts of wildfires and associated smoke, including prescribed burns.
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