Dynamic Recreation Opportunity Spectrum Modelling.

Sustainable forest management certification is an important development in forestry. It requires the evaluation of forest management plans, including recreation outcomes, to assess their performance over time. This poses a challenge for jurisdictions that do not have reliable data about outdoor recreation participation. In the absence of such data, and in management environments constrained by limited resources, a pragmatic tool is needed to measure and forecast outdoor recreation settings and opportunities. The impact of forest management activities on recreation opportunities is quantified based on the use of the recreation opportunity spectrum (ROS). This project developed and tested a new GIS-based approach linked to ecological and timber harvesting computer models to delineate ROS classes from potential timber harvesting activities, and identify potential impacts of forest harvesting activities on recreation settings. This application of a temporally dynamic, spatially explicit approach allows us to measure the diversity of recreation settings and to evaluate the impacts of timber harvesting on recreation opportunities. A comparison of two forest management scenarios suggest that, without a priori identification and protection of vulnerable ROS classes, primitive settings may be systematically lost over time.


Harshaw, H.W. and Sheppard, S.R.J. (2013). Using the recreation opportunity spectrum to evaluate the temporal impacts of timber harvesting on outdoor recreation settings. Journal of Outdoor Recreation & Tourism, 1 -2(1), 40–50.

Modelling Recreation Opportunity: What are the relationships between timber harvesting and opportunities for outdoor recreation?

Two forestry models were used to simulate the two timber harvesting scenarios and to inform the modelling of recreation opportunity. FPS-ATLAS is a time-step and rule-based timber harvesting simulation that schedules timber harvest units. FORECAST is a stand-level forest growth model that provided age class maps FPS-ATLAS.

BC ROS Settings

British Columbia Recreation Opportunity Settings

Below is a demonstration of the dynamic application of the ROS. In this simulation, harvest blocks return to natural condition after 65 years of being harvested, and roads return to natural condition after 25 years of being deactivated.


For more detailed information about the GIS operations used to develop the dynamic ROS model, click here.


  • Permits the systematic prediction of impacts to outdoor recreation & opportunities.
  • Helpful in interpreting management assumptions.
  • Can aid in the incorporation of outdoor recreation into forest management scenarios.
  • Recreation opportunity settings are dynamic.
  • Once (Semi-)Primitive opportunity settings are lost, they are difficult to get back.
  • Allows for the social experience to be incorporated into forest management scenarios.

Proposed SFM Criterion: Temporal maintenance of a diversity of outdoor recreation opportunities across the landscape.


The contributions of Stephen Sheppard, John Nelson, Brad Seely, Ralph Wells, Arnold Moy, Rob Kozak, and Michael Meitner from the University of British Columbia Faculty of Forestry are gratefully acknowledged. The financial support of Canadian Forest Products Ltd., the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Canadian Forest Service, the Sustainable Forest Management Network, and the Province of British Columbia through the Forest Investment Account – Forest Science Program (Project 071036) helped to make this research possible.