Balancing Riparian Management and River Recreation: Methods and Applications for Exploring Floater Behavior and Their Interaction with Large Wood
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- Biedenweg, K., Akyuz, K. & Skeele, R. Environmental Management (2012) 50: 283. doi:10.1007/s00267-012-9876-8
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River managers are tasked with meeting both ecological and human needs. In the Puget Sound lowland, riparian management often includes placing or allowing the presence of large wood to stabilize riverbanks and enhance salmon habitat. Although this practice benefits humans by protecting infrastructure and natural resources, it is unclear how such practices interact with an additional human interest, recreation. Furthermore, we were unable to find studies that describe how an agency can go about researching the interaction between recreation and large wood management practices. This study tested methods for describing and estimating the number of river floaters, where they float in relationship to river projects, the risks they take while floating, and their perceptions of large wood in the river. Selecting a high-use suburban river in Washington State, we used riverside observations, interviews, and an infrared counter to gather data in the summer of 2010. Statistical analyses provided general characteristics of users, trends in engaging in risky behaviors, and estimates of use for the entire season and on the busiest day. Data mapping with GIS presented the density of use along the river and frequency of use of specific float routes. Finally, qualitative analysis of interviews clarified floaters’ perspectives of large wood. To address the multiple mandates of river managers, it is important to understand recreation users, the factors that could be putting them at risk, and how the actual users perceive large wood in the river. This study demonstrates methods for scientifically gathering such information and applying it when making riparian management decisions.