Publication Date


Date of Final Oral Examination (Defense)


Type of Culminating Activity


Degree Title

Master of Science in Biology



Major Advisor

Kathryn Demps, Ph.D.


Julie Heath, Ph.D.


Ian C. Robertson, Ph.D.


Off-highway vehicle (OHV) recreation on public lands provides participants with the opportunity to experience positive connections with nature; however, like all outdoor recreation activity, OHV use can have impacts on the environment. In order to maintain the health of the landscape and wildlife while also providing recreational opportunities, managers must make decisions based on sound biological and social science data. We hope this research provides knowledge that may aid in the implementation of sound management strategies that are successful in fulfilling these goals.

In the first chapter, in order to gain knowledge on OHV recreationists and their distributions across a landscape, we used a combination of a pre-trip written survey and visitor-employed GPS survey to determine characteristics that influence their travel within a complex trail system on federally managed land in southwest Idaho. The pre-trip written survey supplied us with characteristics of the recreationists that were put into one of four categories, group constraints, site experience, site knowledge, or motivations. The GPS survey provided spatial and temporal data in order to describe the participant’s distributions. Using principal components analysis, we found that distributions can be summarized by two distinct dimensions. The most informative dimension was a measure of overall extensiveness of the trip while the second dimension can be described as the dichotomy between “purpose driven” and “aimless” travel. Using a theoretical information approach, overall extensiveness was influenced by group constraints, site knowledge, and motivations while the second dimension (“purpose driven” or “aimless” travel) was influenced by group constraints and site experience. We found that all four variable categories influenced at least one of the distribution dimensions, supporting our conceptual model. These findings can aid land managers in meeting management objectives by giving them the necessary information to identify uneven use patterns, better direct educational and informational programs, and to allow indirect management strategies to be affectively used.

In the second chapter, we concentrated on how the landscape may influence OHV use patterns and behavior, specifically stopping behavior. All outdoor recreation has an impact on the environment and on wildlife; however, heterogeneous or transitional behaviors such as stopping often increases disturbance to wildlife. It has been observed that OHV recreationists, when riding in golden eagle habitat in southwest Idaho, disturb eagles more often when they stop their vehicle(s) as opposed to continuing to ride until they are outside of the sensitive area. Using a visitor-employed GPS survey and a presence-only modeling method, our objective was to identify where OHV recreationists stopped and to describe what natural and infrastructure landscape characteristics are more suitable for this transitional human behavior to occur. We then wanted to determine if there was a significant difference in stopping suitability between areas of varying habitat utilization by the local golden eagle population. We successfully identified stopping locations and developed two distinct models. One model described the suitability for all stopping events five seconds or greater while the second model described the suitability where an accumulation of five minutes of stopping occurs. We determined what landscape characteristics contributed to stopping suitability across the study site for both models. In the “All” model, we found that the stopping suitability index was greater in unoccupied territories when compared to occupied territories. In the “Five Minute” model, we determined that stopping suitability was lower in non-territory areas than in both unoccupied and occupied golden eagle territories. When examining used and available habitats based on perch locations away from nest sites, we found no significant difference. This research exhibits how transitional human behaviors can be identified and modeled across a landscape as well as how the results can be used to aid in land management strategies in order to accomplish management objectives.