Alan Watson - Research Social Scientist

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Alan Watson


  • Ph.D., 1983. - Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg.
    Dissertation:  An application of behavioral decision theory to recreation site selection.
  • M.S., 1980. - Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg.
    Thesis:  Technology transfer: lateral diffusion of innovation in forest recreation planning and management.
  • B.S., 1978. - Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg.
  • Click Here   to view Alan Watson's Curriculum Vitae


Alan came to Forest Service Research in 1988 and has directed the social science program both before and since transformation of the Forest Service Wilderness Research Work Unit to the Leopold Institute. An early career emphasis on monitoring to protect visitor experiences has broadened to include research on ecosystem services, engaging tribal entities in climate change issues, protecting wilderness as a cultural landscape, conflict, trends in use and users, managing special provisions in legislation, and social barriers to ecological restoration, primarily fire. Alan has represented the Leopold Institute three times on Fulbright appointments (Finland, Russia and Brazil), serves on the Editorial Board of the International Journal of Wilderness, and he represents the Leopold Institute and partner agencies on the Executive Committee of the World Wilderness Congress.



Research Interests:

  • Model the effects of personal and social meanings on landscape level forest policy decisions
  • Role of wilderness in larger social and ecological systems
  • Conflicting personal and social meanings and values associated with wilderness
  • Monitoring recreation use and experiential aspects of wilderness use
  • Understanding personal relationships with place, wilderness and activity among nonconforming, contentious uses of wilderness
  • Personal and societal response to recreation fees for wilderness use
  • Segmenting the tourist community based upon commitment to protecting wilderness character
  • The role of traditional ecological knowledge in wilderness protection
  • The relationship between the public and public lands and contributors to trust
  • Understanding personal relationships with place, wilderness and activity among nonconforming, contentious uses of wilderness
  • Emotional and practical response to recreation fees at the Desolation Wilderness
  • Segmenting Alaska tourists by commitment and involvement to wilderness

Professional Activities:

  • Executive Editor for Science, International Journal of Wilderness
  • Guest Editor, Journal of Leisure Research & Journal of Park and Recreation Administration (issues on conflict, fees and pricing)
  • Editor/Compiler, Personal, societal, and ecological values of wilderness: Proceedings for Sixth & Seventh World Wilderness Congresses, Bangalore, India & Port Elizabeth, South Africa.
  • Participation in Chief's Office, Forest Service, Science Team, Marketing Resource Group
  • Guest Lecture Series, Rovaniemi Polytechnic, Rovaniemi, Finland
  • Guest Lecture, University of Helsinki, American Studies Program, Finland
  • Guest Lecture, University of Turku, American Studies Program, Finland
  • Academic Advisory Committee, College of Forestry, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
  • Affiliate Faculty, University of Montana

Honors / Awards:

  • Honorable Mention for Tribal Professional Excellence - National Office of Tribal Relations Awards
  • Fulbright Lecture Award, Arctic Centre, University of Lapland, Finland
  • Fulbright Senior Specialist Award, University of Săo Paulo, Brazil
  • National Science Foundation Award, Searching for compatibility in traditional, ecological and ecotourism values of wilderness in the Circumpolar North.

Selected Publications:

To access recent publications by Alan Watson, please click here.

Watson, Alan E. 2012. Wilderness at Arm’s Length: On the Outside Looking in at Special Provisions in Wilderness. In: Cole, David N., comp. 2012. Wilderness visitor experiences: Progress in research and management. Proc. RMRS-P-66. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station: 134-146.
Leopold Publication Number 767

Dvorak, Robert G.; Watson, Alan E.; Christensen, Neal; Borrie, William T.; Schwaller, Ann. 2012. The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness: Examining changes in use, users, and management challenges. Res. Pap. RMRS-RP-91. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. 46 p.
Leopold Publication Number 752

Trosper, Ronald L.; Clark, Fred; Gerez-Fernandez, Patrica; Lake, Frank; McGregor, Deborah; Peters, Charles M.; Purata, Silvia; Ryan, Teresa; Thomson, Alan; Watson, Alan E.; and Stephen Wyatt. 2011. North America. Pages 157-201 In: J.A. Parrotta and R.L. Trosper (Eds.), Traditional Forest-Related Knowledge: Sustaining Communities, Ecosystems and Biocultural Diversity. World Forests, Volume 12, 2012. Springer. New York. DOI 10.1007/978-94-007-2144-9_5.
This book is available from Springer.
Leopold Publication Number 742

Alan E. Watson. 2011. The Role of Wilderness Protection and Societal Engagement as Indicators of Well-Being: An Examination of Change at the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Social Indicators Research, DOI 10.1007/s11205-011-9947-x.
Leopold Institute Publication Number 741

Watson, Alan; Murrieta-Saldivar, Joaquin; McBride, Brooke, comps. 2011. Science and stewardship to protect and sustain wilderness values: Ninth World Wilderness Congress symposium; November 6-13, 2009; Meridá, Yucatán, Mexico. Proceedings RMRS-P-64. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. 225 p.
Leopold Institute Publication Number 740

Watson, Alan; Matt, Roian; Knotek, Katie; Williams, Daniel R.; and Laurie Yung. 2011. Traditional Wisdom: Protecting Relationships with Wilderness as a Cultural Landscape. Ecology and Society 16(1):36.
Leopold Publication Number 729

Yang, He; Hutchinson, Susan; Zinn, Harry; Watson, Alan. 2011. Discretionary Time of Chinese College Students: Activities and Impact of SARS-Induced Constraints on Choices. Social Indicators Research 102(3): 517-535, DOI: 10.1007/s11205-010-9691-7.
Leopold Publication Number 718

Watson, Alan; Ostergren, Dave; Fix, Peter; Overbaugh, Bill; McCollum, Dan; Kruger, Linda; Madsen, Martha; Yang, He. 2009. Protecting ecotourism resources in a time of rapid economic and environmental transformation in Asia. In, Xiaowen, Jie; Xu erming, Xu; Schneider, Ingrid (editors). 2009. Strategic Management Engineering: Enterprise, Encironment and Crisis. Proceedings of 2009 International Conference on Strategic Management. Sichuan University Press: 185-201.
Leopold Publication Number 693

Watson, Alan; Martin, Vance; Lin, Chau Chin. 2009. Wilderness: an international community knocking on Asia's door. Journal of National Park (Taiwan) 19(4):1-9.
Leopold Publication Number 691

Martin, Vance G. and Alan Watson. 2009. International Wilderness. In: C.P. Dawson and J.C. Hendee (2009) Wilderness Management: Stewardship and Protection of Resources and Values, fourth edition. Fulcrum Press, Golden, Co. Pp. 50-88.

Carver, Steve; Watson, Alan; Waters, Tim; Matt, Roian; Gunderson, Kari; Davis, Brett. 2009. Developing computer-based participatory approaches to mapping landscape values for landscape and resource management. In: Planning Support Systems Best Practice and New Methods. Series: GeoJournal Library , Vol. 95. Geertman, Stan; Stillwell, John Charles Harold (Eds.) 2009, XXII, 490 p. Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4020-8951-0. Available online:
Leopold Publication Number 673

Liljeblad, A., Borrie, W.T. and Watson, A.E. 2009. Determinants of trust for public lands: fire and fuels management on the Bitterroot National Forest. Environmental Management 43(4):571-584.
Leopold Publication Number 667

Knotek, Katie; Watson, Alan E.; Borrie, William T.; Whitmore, Joshua G. and Turner, David. 2008. Recreation visitor attitudes towards management-ignited prescribed fires in the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex, Montana. Journal of Leisure Research 40(4): 608-618.
Leopold Publication Number 663

Watson, Alan; Knotek, Katie; Christensen, Neal. 2008. On the Outside Looking In: Fly-in Recreation Day Use Visitor Experiences in the South District of Denali National Park and Preserve. International Journal of Wilderness 14(2):19-23.
Leopold Publication Number 650

Watson, Alan; Matt, Roian; Waters, Tim; Gunderson, Kari; Carver, Steve; Davis, Brett. 2008. Mapping tradeoffs in values at risk at the interface between wilderness and non-wilderness lands. Proceedings: III International Symposium on Fire Economics, Planning, and Policy: Common Problems and Approaches, 29 April - 2 May, 2008. Carolina, Puerto Rico. Gen. Tech. Rep. PSW-GTR-227. USDA Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Station.
Leopold Publication Number 643

Contact Information:
Aldo Leopold Wilderness Research Institute
790 E. Beckwith Avenue
Missoula, MT 59807
Phone: 406-542-4197
Fax: 406-542-4196

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