Publication Date

Spring 2013

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Environmental Studies


Will Russell


ecotourism, redwoods, Santa Cruz, conservation

Subject Areas

Environmental studies


According to the World Tourism Organization, ecotourism is the fastest growing segment of the tourism industry, generating $300 billion in annual revenue. Ecotourism aims to control the damaging effects of conventional mass tourism and tries to overcome tourism's environmental and socio-cultural challenges. In an ideal situation, ecotourism can help conserve fragile biodiversity, build ties between parks and communities, and increase awareness of environmental issues; it also includes a profit impetus for businesses.

This research was conducted to evaluate the potential for developing ecotourism as a conservation tool in the four redwoods state parks of Santa Cruz County. The study assessed the tangible and intangible values of coast redwood forests, as well as management policies of California State Parks. The study used a multi-method approach to gather qualitative and quantitative data from tourists and state park officials. Results indicated that, while a foundation for ecotourism existed within the state park framework, there was a disparity in management policies and their implementation, and improvements in tourist education were required. These findings lent support to the idea of true and conservation-oriented ecotourism as well as appropriate management for endangered coast redwood forests.