Humboldt State University

Home > Faculty & Staff > Dr. Steven R. Martin

Dr. Steven R. Martin

Professor, Natural Resources Recreation
Department Chair, ESM Department
Graduate Faculty

What I like about HSU is the sense of community and shared ideals and the feeling that people are here because they want to make things better . . . the environment, their communities. When I teach a class it’s my favorite part of the day. I look forward to going into the classroom because I enjoy having that discussion, that intellectual give and take, about a topic in which we all share an interest.

My teaching and professional interests include park and wilderness planning and management, particularly planning for and managing recreational uses of parks, wilderness, and similar public lands. My personal interests and hobbies include whitewater kayaking and rafting, hiking and backpacking, cross-country skiing, and visiting our great public lands. My favorite landscapes to visit are the Colorado Plateau deserts of southern Utah and the high mountain lakes and forests of western Montana and the high Sierra. The two books that have most influenced me are A Sand County Almanac, by Aldo Leopold, and Desert Solitaire, by Edward Abbey.

Contact Information
  • Natural Resources (NR) Building, Rm. 200B
  • (707) 826-5637
  • .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Specialty Area

Outdoor recreation planning and management in parks, wilderness and other public lands.


B.S. in both Biology and Environmental Studies, 1982, Principia College, Illinois
M.S. in Wildland Recreation Management, 1987, The University of Montana, Missoula, Montana
Ph.D. in Forestry (recreation), 1994, The University of Montana, Missoula, Montana

Courses Taught

EMP 105 – Natural Resources Conservation
EMP 215 – Natural Resources and Recreation
EMP 415 – Recreation Planning
EMP 440 – Managing Recreation Visitors
FOR 374 – Wilderness Area Management


Dr. Martin is the 2015 recipient of the national award for Excellence in Wilderness Stewardship Research, awarded by the Chief of the U.S. Forest Service.

My research focuses on visitor use of recreation settings and managing recreational use of natural resource areas, particularly parks, wilderness areas and similar public lands.

Much of my research involves recreation visitor studies which aim to increase our understanding of:

  • the nature of the outdoor recreation experience
  • problems that detract from recreation visitor enjoyment
  • how to enhance the experience of recreation visitors
  • how recreational activities may impact resources
  • how to minimize the impacts of recreation
  • issues of visitor access to areas, and how to balance an area’s recreational use with protection of its resources
  • the direct and indirect techniques used to manage recreation visitors
  • the factors that influence people's participation in outdoor recreation
  • changing recreation use patterns and trends
As such, my research is best characterized as “human dimensions of natural resources” and involves quite a bit of social science, though in a natural resources context.


Martin, Steven. 2017. Real and potential influences of information technology on outdoor recreation and wilderness experiences and management. Journal of Park and Recreation Administration 35(1): 98-101.

Martin, Steven. 2016. Protecting Visitors and the Wilderness through Stewardship Research. International Journal of Wilderness 22(2): 17-20.

Martin, Steven and Jessica Blackwell. 2016. Influences of personal locator beacons on wilderness visitor behavior. International Journal of Wilderness 22(1): 25-31.

Watson, Cordell, Manning and Martin. 2016. The Evolution of Wilderness Social Science and Future Research to Protect Experiences, Resources, and Societal Benefits. Journal of Forestry 114(3): 329-338.

Martin, Steven. 2015 Coastal Recreation Visitor Study. Final Research Report submitted to the Bureau of Land Management, Arcata Field Office. April 25, 2016. 137 pp.

Watson, Martin, Christenson, Fauth and Williams. 2015. Relationship between perceptions of wilderness character, attitudes toward management intervention to adapt biophysical resources to a changing climate, and nature restoration at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. Environmental Management. 56:653-663.

Van Kirk, Martin, Ross and Douglas. 2014. Computer Simulation Modeling to Determine Trailhead Quotas for Overnight Wilderness Visitor Use. Journal of Park and Recreation Administration. 32(3):29-48.

Martin, Steven and Daniel White. 2013. Headwaters Forest Reserve 2012 Visitor Study. Final Research Report submitted to the Bureau of Land Management, Arcata Field Office. June 30, 2013. 204 pp.

Martin, Steven and Jessica Blackwell. 2012. Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks 2011 Wilderness Visitor Survey. Final Research Report submitted to Aldo Leopold Wilderness Research Institute and Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks. 129 pp.

Martin, Steven and Kristen Pope. 2012. The Influence of Hand-Held Information and Communication Technology on Visitor Perceptions of Risk and Risk-Related Behavior. In: Cole, David N., comp. 2012. Wilderness visitor experiences: Progress in research and management; 2011 April 4-7; Missoula, MT. Proc. RMRS-P-66. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. 219 p.

Douglas, Ross, Martin, and Van Kirk. 2012. Overnight Visitor Use and Computer Simulation Modeling of the Yosemite Wilderness. Pages 84-89 in: Weber, Samantha, ed. 2012. Rethinking Protected Areas in a Changing World: Proceedings of the 2011 George Wright Society Biennial Conference on Parks, Protected Areas, and Cultural Sites. Hancock, Michigan: The George Wright Society.

Van Kirk, Martin, Ross, and Douglas. 2011. Simulation Modeling and Analysis of Overnight Visitor Use of the Yosemite Wilderness. Final Report to National Park Service, Yosemite National Park, El Portal, California. November 2011. 89 pages.

Ward, Martin, Taylor. 2011. Design and Evaluation of Communication Strategies to Mitigate Visitor Use Impacts at Pelican and Cormorant Non-breeding Sites. Final research report submitted to Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Arcata, CA. 72 pp.

Pope, Kristen and Steven Martin. 2011. Visitor perceptions of technology, risk and rescue in wilderness. International Journal of Wilderness, volume 17, number 2, pages 19 - 26, 48.

Ward, Taylor, and Martin. 2011. Evaluation of Communication Strategies to Mitigate Visitor Use Impacts on Marbled Murrelets. Final Research Report submitted to Redwood National and State Parks. July 2011.

Martin, Steven and Kate McCurdy. 2010. Wilderness food storage: Are bear-resistant food storage canisters effective? International Journal of Wilderness, volume 16, number 1, pages 13-19, April 2010.

Martin, Steven and Kate McCurdy. 2009. Wilderness food storage in Yosemite: Using the Theory of Planned Behavior to understand backpacker canister use. Human Dimensions of Wildlife, volume 14, number 3, pages 206-218, June 2009.

Martin, Steven, Jeff Marsolais, and David Rolloff. 2009. Visitor perceptions of appropriate management actions across the Recreation Opportunity Spectrum. Journal of Park and Recreation Administration, volume 27, number 1, pages 56-69, Spring 2009.

Martin, Steven and Kate McCurdy. 2008. Wilderness food storage in Yosemite: understanding backpacker canister use. Paper presented at Integrating Human Dimensions into Fisheries and Wildlife Management Conference, Estes Park, CO, Sept. 28 - Oct. 2, 2008.

McCurdy, Kate and Steven Martin. 2007. An assessment of bear-resistant food canister use in Yosemite National Park. Final report submitted to the National Park Service.

Martin, Steven, Kate McCurdy and Steve Thompson. 2006. Backcountry food storage: How not to share your dinner with a bear. Research poster presented at 11th International Symposium on Society and Resource Management, Vancouver, B.C. June 2006.

Martin, Steven, Kate McCurdy and Tori Seher. 2005. Food storage regulations in the Yosemite Wilderness: implications for bears and backpackers. Research poster presented at the 8th World Wilderness Congress, Anchorage, Alaska. October 2005.

Martin, Steven and Emily Harris. 2004. Campsite solitude: A contingent valuation study. Research poster presented at 10 th International Symposium on Society and Resource Management, Keystone, Colorado. June 2004.

Martin, Steven and Jeff Marsolais. 2004. Visitor perceptions of management actions across the recreation opportunity spectrum. Research poster presented at 10 th International Symposium on Society and Resource Management, Keystone, Colorado. June 2004.

Martin, Steven and Emily Harris. 2004. Research Report for Lost Coast Trail Backcountry Visitor Study. Report submitted to Bureau of Land Management, King Range National Conservation Area.

Martin, Steven, John Stuart, Portia Halbert, and Mark Rizzardi. 2004. Effect of 70 years of recreational car camping on vigor of old-growth coast redwood and Douglas-fir. Research report submitted to Big Basin Redwoods State Park, and research poster presented at Redwood Region Forestry Science Symposium, March 2004. Rohnert Park, CA.

Martin, Steven and Emily Harris. 2004. Are bear-proof food storage canisters being used effectively on the Lost Coast Trail? Research poster presented at 4th Social Aspects and Recreation Research Symposium, February 4-6, 2004. San Francisco, CA.

Duncan, Garrett and Steven Martin. 2002. Comparing the effectiveness of interpretive and sanction messages for influencing wilderness visitors’ intended behavior. International Journal of Wilderness 8(2): 20-25.

Martin, Steven and Carolyn Widner. 2000. Research Report for Headwaters Forest Reserve Visitor Study. Report submitted to Bureau of Land Management, Arcata Resource Area.

Martin, Steven. 2000. Donations as an alternative to wilderness user fees - The case of the Desolation Wilderness. In: Cole, McCool, Borrie, and O’Laughlin (compilers). Wilderness Science in a Time of Change Conference Proceedings, Volume Four, pp. 142-147. Dept. of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station.

Martin, Steven. 1999. A policy implementation analysis of the Recreation Fee Demonstration Program: Convergence of public sentiment, agency programs, and policy principles? Journal of Park and Recreation Administration 17(3): 15-34.

Martin, Steven. 1999. A Wilderness Within: The Life of Sigurd F. Olson (Reviewed). Leisure Sciences 21(2): 167-169.

Martin, Steven. 1997. Specialization and differences in setting preferences among wildlife viewers. Human Dimensions of Wildlife. 2(1): 1-18.

Graduate Students

If your research interests are similar to mine, and you are interested in working on a thesis (developing a conceptual framework, advancing hypotheses, collecting and statistically analyzing the data), and you will work to publish your research results in a journal, here are some things you should know and some steps you should take.

Understand that space is limited and competition can be strong. I generally accept only one new graduate student each year. If you are interested in working with me, I strongly encourage you to do two things: 1) send me an example of your writing and thinking in the form of a 1 to 2 page thesis project pre-proposal, along with a statement of your career goals, why you want to pursue a master’s degree, and a summary of your research-related experience; 2) if at all possible, visit campus and meet with me in person.

Current Graduate Students
Irene Vasquez

I'm interested in determining effective management in restoring tribal values for tule (Shoenoplectus) baskets in Yosemite National Park. I want to compare burned and non-burned sites for tule growth, quality and size. Can cutting, tearing tule at different intensities and seasons be an effective management tool to promote growth for cultural purposes? What are the pests or pathogens that attack tules and can prescribed burning be an effective biological control? I will examine historical documents in regards to marsh and riparian burns, as well as interview basket weavers and elders about the qualities, gathering and management techniques of tule for good basket material and other utilitarian purposes and then try to meet those values by implementing a management regime for restoring plants important for cultural preservation.

Former Graduate Students
Claudia Voigt - Graduated 2016
Measuring Recreation Use Impacts on Old-Growth Redwoods

Old-growth coastal redwood stands and the habitat they provide are the conservation target of Redwood National and State Parks (RNSP) in northern California. In recent years there has been greater access to location information about record-sized trees, and visitors have created networks of social trails in redwood groves, including one grove that has no formal access. Coupled with increasing visitor numbers, this has caused an alarming increase in recreational impacts in redwood groves. By providing visitors access to groves, managers accept that there will be ecosystem impacts, but data is needed to evaluate the degree of impact on trees, soil and understory vegetation. I assessed impacts of social trails around old-growth redwood trees in three alluvial flat groves with different use intensities in RNSP. In 2015 I mapped old-growth redwood trees and social trail networks around these trees. I randomly sampled 20 to 30 trees per site and collected baseline data on the spatial extent of disturbance and selected vegetation and soil indicators. Tree size (measured as diameter) proved to be significantly positively related with trampling disturbance around trees in two of the sites, while in the highest-use site, distance from the formal trail was most strongly related with disturbed area. The findings of this study will serve as initial baseline conditions for recreational impacts in these stands. RNSP can use the study design developed for this thesis to monitor changes in trail-related visitor impacts in old-growth redwood stands of management concern.

Jessica Blackwell - Graduated 2015
Does personal information and communication technology in the wilderness lead to more risk-taking in wilderness?

Through a wilderness visitor survey in Sequoia-Kings Canyon Wilderness (n= 635) and follow-up personal phone interviews (n=65), this study offers insight in how personal locator beacon (PLBs) technology may influence wilderness visitors. Results show that wilderness visitors were able to enjoy the wilderness experience more worry-free and guilt-free than they had without a device. Many said that it was an added precautionary tool, such as a first aid kit, flare gun or whistle, making them more prepared in the case of an emergency. We also found that carrying a device helped wilderness visitors travel without feeling guilty for causing their loved ones back home to worry about their safety. Solo travelers in particular were able to enjoy the solitude of their wilderness experience more than they would have without a device. The only significant finding on how a device may influence risk-taking or decision making in the wilderness, was on the visitors’ decision to travel alone. Many people felt they would be more likely to travel alone if they had a personal locator device. The device theoretically would replace the need for traveling in a group. Those that consider themselves to be risk takers said they would be just as likely to do the same activities with or without the device. Hand-held technology, by influencing the wilderness experience and risk behavior of the wilderness visitor, will lead to inevitable changes in what defines wilderness (solitude, sense of self-reliance, primitive experience, meeting nature on its own terms, developing self-rescue skills). The knowledge gained from this research may be used to develop best management practices and guiding principles for the appropriate use of technology in the wilderness.

Daniel White - Graduated 2014
Recreational Visitor Use of the Headwaters Forest Reserve

Headwaters Forest Reserve (HFR) has existed since 1999, when the Bureau of Land Management purchased remnants of old-growth forestland from Pacific Lumber Company. The area provides numerous recreation opportunities, including hiking and dog walking. High visitor numbers combined with many different user group types seeking different experience outcomes often leads to conflict, and in recent years instances of human-dog conflict have increased. To assess the nature of human-dog conflict at HFR, 434 visitors to the area were surveyed from May to September 2012. The survey had two components, an on-site interview, and a written survey that was mailed to participants and then mailed back upon completion (71% response rate). Participants were asked about the quality of their visit, agreement with proposed area management strategies, and opinions on the current dog policy. Results showed about 20% of respondents reported conflict between humans and dogs, with figures higher for those visitors who didn’t bring dogs. Significant differences in attitudes about potential management techniques were also found between visitors who bring dogs to HFR and visitors who don’t, with visitors who bring dogs less receptive to more restrictions placed on dogs at HFR. I propose potential management techniques to alleviate conflict by adjusting attitudes of visitors through changing social norms, which includes increasing visitor education and increased enforcement of regulations

Mark Douglas - Graduated 2011
Yosemite Wilderness Visitor Travel Patterns -- Implications for Trailhead Permit Quotas

Yosemite National Park uses a trailhead quota system to manage wilderness visitors. Park scientists set user capacities in the 1970s for wilderness zones and trailhead quotas from prevalent travel patterns and a computer simulation model. Limiting how many visitors start daily at a trailhead maintains overnight zone use within capacity if trip characteristics (party size, trip duration, spatiotemporal itinerary adherence) remain similar to the 1970s. Evidence suggests that travel patterns have changed since this system's inception. Data on which the original trailhead quotas were based, and the data on itinerary adherence, are nearly forty years old, and the supposition is that visitor use consists of a larger number of shorter distance and shorter duration trips. Consequently, travel zone capacities are likely being exceeded in some zones on high-use nights. To accurately assess wilderness use distribution and to develop a contemporary travel simulation model, wilderness trips from 1 May - 30 September 2010 were evaluated in regard to mean party size, trip duration, and spatial and temporal adherence to the permit itinerary. Multiple visitor use scenarios (e.g. alternate trailhead permit quotas) were then simulated and the results presented to Yosemite Wilderness managers. Mark subsequently earned his Ph.D. at the University of Montana in Missoula and is currently an assistant professor at the University of Maine at Machias

Dan Shyrock - Graduated 2010
Ecological Conditions and Monitoring Standards for Meadows in the John Muir and Ansel Adams Wilderness Areas, CA.

Pack-stock impacts to wilderness meadows have received relatively little research attention. The few studies that have been conducted in high elevation wilderness environments have revealed that even moderate levels of grazing can result in substantial declines in meadow productivity. Despite this, active monitoring of Wilderness grazing areas has traditionally been given far less attention than monitoring of trails or campsites, and in many cases meadows are not monitored at all. As a result, wilderness managers must try to adaptively manage pack stock use with only limited qualitative, often anecdotal information of on-the-ground conditions. The Inyo National Forest has been involved in several lawsuits over the last seven years concerned with pack stock management in the John Muir and Ansel Adams Wilderness Areas. These lawsuits have led the Forest to reevaluate meadow conditions and monitoring needs. My research contributes to that effort by evaluating the ecological conditions of 14 wilderness meadows and examining the effectiveness of different types of resource standards and monitoring techniques. In particular, my research examines the effectiveness of frequency monitoring in rating meadow ecological conditions, the use and effectiveness of new types of standards, such as graminoid to forb ratios, and the effect of varying use levels on species composition and ground cover. Old monitoring plots were also re-measured in four meadows, allowing for an analysis of trends in species composition over the last 20 years.

Kristen Pope - Graduated 2010
Visitor Perceptions of Wilderness Rescue

Wilderness visitation has changed somewhat in recent years with the widespread availability of personal technology such as GPS, cell phones, and emergency personal locator beacons. It is possible this has encouraged individuals from a wider variety of skill levels and backgrounds to visit wilderness. As devices like personal locator beacons become readily available, more visitors may bring them into wilderness and use them to request rescues, and may develop unrealistic expectations of rescue. In 2009, 235 overnight visitors to the King Range Wilderness in California completed a written survey. "Pro-technology" respondents (55% of the sample) felt that technology increased one's safety in wilderness, and would be more likely to use technology to request a wilderness rescue. "Anti-technology" respondents (45%) felt very strongly that technology cannot substitute for skill, experience and knowledge, were very unlikely to take chances that could increase risk just because they had technology with them, and did not agree that technology reduced dangers and made them feel safer in the wilderness. Those with personal experience of a serious wilderness accident were more likely to believe that technology creates a false sense of safety for wilderness users than were people who have not been involved in a serious wilderness accident. Kristen is currently the Jackson (WY) Representative for the Wyoming Wilderness Association.

Max Korten - Graduated 2008
Developing Quantitative Indicators and Standards for Solitude on the Lost Coast Trail

Zach Jarrett - Graduated 2007
Expectancy-Disconfirmation Theory and Recreation Visitor Satisfaction

Kate McCurdy - Graduated 2006
Attitudes, beliefs and behaviors about bear resistant food canister use among wilderness users in Yosemite National Park

Jeff Marsolais - Graduated 2004
Visitor Perceptions of Management Actions Across the Recreation Opportunity Spectrum