Wreckreation? Livelihood, Labor, Work, Play, and the Environment in the Rural American West

Industry, based on landscape, has been foundational to the American West’s cultural and ideological underpinnings. The extraction and outdoor recreation industries are two of these core industries, both reliant on the vast public lands and natural resources of the West. These industries are both economic drivers, yet often seen in moral opposition, a binary on which to delineate land use conflict as well as adjudicate ideological concerns in a changing physical and social landscape. For her Master’s thesis, Mara is exploring community change within the context of transition from extractive natural resource use to the “non-extractive” natural resource use of the outdoor recreation industy. Mara is using mixed methods to explore this at both the outdoor industry level and the community level. Through her research, she aims to better understand how different modalities of knowing the land–via work, labor, livelihood, and play–inform how individuals and communities interact, value, manage, and care for the environment and communities. Ultimately, the results of this research can be used by recreation-economy based rural communities to better plan for a future where people and the environment can thrive, not just survive.





Mara MacDonell, Research Assistant and Western Resource Fellow | Mara MacDonell is a Masters of Environmental Science student interested in rural communities, science communication, transitioning economies, and environmental justice in the American West. While she grew up in rural, remote northern Minnesota, she fell in love with the West while working in social services policy and programming in Telluride, CO. She has also coached Nordic skiing, served as an AmeriCorps VISTA, and guided backcountry canoe and backpacking trips. She holds a BA in geology from Carleton College. In her free time, Mara enjoys backcountry skiing, running rivers, rock climbing, and painting. See what Mara has been up to.  |  Blog