In 2012 the Center for Great Plains Studies conducted a two-phase survey of 51 naturalists in nine states with knowledge of Great Plains ecotourism; we surveyed field personnel from non-profit organizations, managers of private ecotourism companies, state agency officials, and others. In the first round these individuals were asked to identify 20 Great Plains sites which in their opinion are
those sites you consider to offer the best, most powerful environmental experience and/or the ones that are ecologically the most important. These are the places you would definitely recommend to your best friends to visit.
After eliminating redundant nominations, sites outside the Great Plains, and others that did not fit the criteria, we were left with 93 nominated sites. In the second round we shared with respondents the first-round results and then asked them to nominate 15 top sites. The most frequently identified sites were then named as the region's top sites.
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Why is ecotourism important?
Ecotourism generates revenues critical for funding conservation initiatives, increases public awareness of and support for conservation, and helps nearby human communities to thrive economically. All three are crucial to sustained and healthy conservation in the Great Plains. Ecotourism offers some of the most magical and inspiring moments of the human experience.
- An "Ecotourist Site" is any place or site that (a) is primarily devoted to environmental or biodiversity conservation and provides an opportunity to experience nature, and (b) is open to the public, either free or for a fee. We do not include places whose primary purpose is hunting and fishing (though ecotourist sites may permit hunting or fishing). The sites may be owned by a governmental entity, a nonprofit or tribal organization, or a private for-profit business. Ecotourist sites provide places to walk, hike, camp, photograph, observe, learn about, and reflect upon the wondrous natural environment that is the Great Plains; some sites also offer opportunities to engage more deeply, by volunteering or participating in programs that support and sustain this precious legacy.
- The "Top" ecotourism sites are those sites that offer the best, most powerful environmental experience and/or the ones that are ecologically the most important. These are places our experts definitely recommend that you visit.