Western Canada is experiencing an unprecedented outbreak of the mountain pine beetle (MPB). The MPB has the potential to impact some of Canada's national parks by affecting park ecosystems and the visitor experience. Controls have been initiated in some parks to lessen the impacts and to prevent the beetle from spreading beyond park boundaries. We examine the perception of ecological risk associated with MPB in two of Canada's national parks, the factors affecting perceptions of risk, and the influence of risk judgments on support for controlling MPB outbreaks in national parks. Data were collected using two studies of park visitors: a mail survey in 2003 and an onsite survey in 2005. The MPB was rated as posing a greater risk to the health and productivity of park ecosystems than anthropogenic hazards and other natural disturbance agents. Visitors who were familiar with MPB rated the ecological and visitor experience impacts as negative, unacceptable, and eliciting negative emotion. Knowledge and residency were the most consistent predictors of risk judgments. Of knowledge, risk, and demographic variables, only sex and risk to ecosystem domains influenced support for controlling the MPB in national parks. Implications for managing MPB in national parks, visitor education, and ecological integrity are discussed.
Erratum In: Risk Anal. 2008 Jun;28(3):803Witson, David OT [corrected to Watson, David OT]