sustaInable camp management study awarded

Jeff Marion

Jeff Marion on the A.T.

Dr. Jeff Marion has built a career around a lifelong passion for the outdoors, and that effort has culminated in his being selected as the co-recipient of the George Wright Society’s Natural Resources Achievement Award for 2019. The award seeks to recognize excellence in research, management, and education related to parks and protected areas.

Marion, a recreational ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey and an adjunct professor in Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and the Environment, is a founding contributor to the field of recreation ecology, which develops and applies ecological knowledge to examine and limit the environmental impacts caused by recreational use of park and forest lands. “The land management agencies have a dual mandate that directs them to both protect natural resource conditions and processes, and to accommodate appropriate recreational activities in protected areas,” Marion explains. “By understanding and modeling the effects of that use, recreation ecologists can work with land managers to direct activities and interventions that will maintain the sustainability of that use.”

Marion has been involved in the nonprofit organization Leave No Trace since its founding, and he authored the organization’s 2014 book, Leave No Trace in the Outdoors. Since 1989, Marion has led the Virginia Tech Field Station of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. His expertise in recreation ecology has led to him collaborating with leading scientists in China to develop management and preservation policies for forest ecosystems across the world.

Marion and his colleague Dr. Jeremy Wimpey are currently completing a study to characterize and reduce the impacts of hikers on the Appalachian Trail, and have initiated a similar multi-year study of camping impacts on the Pacific Crest Trail. “The A.T. management community is very fortunate to have Jeff working so closely with us,” says the Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s director of conservation Laura Belleville.” “He has helped us think through and understand important management issues and his research is invaluable.” Jeff will be presenting his A.T. research study and 17 years of measurements of recovery on closed Annapolis Rocks campsites and changes on new side-hill campsites — where he recently completed the final measurements for his long-term A.T. study — this November in Vienna, Virginia. His full journal paper on the results is forthcoming.

For Marion, the George Wright Society Natural Resources Achievement Award honors a career that hasn’t ever felt like work. “Outdoor activities are my passion, and I followed that passion,” he says. “I was fortunate to find a way to combine my outdoor interests with my academic and professional ambitions, and it’s never felt like I work for a living. I really enjoy what I do, and I can’t believe that I get paid to do what I love.”