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Taking In The Wonders Of The World — With Instagram, Of Course

People pose for a picture among wildflowers in bloom Monday, March 18, 2019, in Lake Elsinore, Calif. (Gregory Bull/AP)
People pose for a picture among wildflowers in bloom Monday, March 18, 2019, in Lake Elsinore, Calif. (Gregory Bull/AP)
This article is more than 3 years old.

With Meghna Chakrabarti

#Beautifulsunset. #Birds. #Everything. Is the obsession with Instagram ruining experiences in the great outdoors for us — and everyone around us?


Annette McGivney, Southwest editor for Backpacker magazine. Author of "Pure Land: A True Story of Three Lives, Three Cultures and the Search for Heaven on Earth." (@AnnetteMcGivney)

Ashley D'Antonio, assistant professor in nature-based recreation management at Oregon State University. (@AshRecEco)

Kate Sollitt, executive director of the Jackson Hole Travel and Tourism Board, which debuted a campaign in November 2018 called "Tag Responsibly, Keep Jackson Hole Wild."

From The Reading List

The Guardian: "Crisis in our national parks: how tourists are loving nature to death" — "Just before sunset near Page, Arizona, a parade of humanity marched up the sandy, half-mile trail toward Horseshoe Bend. They had come from all over the world. Some carried boxes of McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets, others cradled chihuahuas and a few men hid engagement rings in their pockets. But just about everyone had one thing at the ready: a cellphone to snap a picture.

"Horseshoe Bend is one of the American west’s most celebrated overlooks. From a sheer sandstone precipice just a few miles outside Grand Canyon national park, visitors get a bird’s-eye view of the emerald Colorado river as it makes a U-turn 800ft below. Hundreds of miles from any large city, and nestled in the heart of south-west canyon country, Horseshoe Bend was once as lonely as it was beautiful.

"'It was just a local place for family outings,' recalls Bill Diak, 73, who has lived in Page for 38 years and served three terms as its mayor. 'But with the invention of the cellphone, things changed overnight.'

"Horseshoe Bend is what happens when a patch of public land becomes #instagramfamous. Over the past decade photos have spread like wildfire on social media, catching the 7,000 residents of Page and local land managers off guard.

"According to Diak, visitation grew from a few thousand annual visitors historically to 100,000 in 2010 – the year Instagram was launched. By 2015, an estimated 750,000 people made the pilgrimage. This year visitation is expected to reach 2 million."

The Ringer: "Stay Wild: How Parks Departments Are Keeping Up With Instagram Chasers" — "Jackson Hole is known for a few things: its extravagance, its famous seasonal residents, and, above all, its wilderness. The Wyoming ski-resort town is home to two national parks and the largest protected land in the continental United States.

"Conservationism is in Jackson Hole’s DNA, so much so that last year the city’s tourism board sought a way to curb the effects of the deluge of visitors brought on by social media. Colle McVoy, a marketing agency out of Minnesota, pitched the town on a tech-savvy campaign to stem the hordes and won the job. 'The focus was just how special Jackson Hole was in terms of it being kind of this last real mountain town,' says Dustin Black, a creative director with the agency. 'Jackson Hole is 97 percent protected federal land, which is truly unique and that has given it a special feel that some other ski resort towns have lost.'

"What’s being lost are the places that are 'loved to death,' a now overused phrase that aptly describes what’s happening to the outdoors. Parks, reserves, and wilderness areas were ill-prepared for a newfound fascination with the natural world, in part spurred by Instagram. The photo-sharing app quickly became a place to collect and broadcast locations as if they were medals; social currency can be won by proving you climbed a mountain or bathed in a hot spring. This pursuit has negative byproducts: crowding, trail damage, littering, and vandalism, among others. For some, the consequences can be fatal. This past October, a couple taking a selfie fell to their deaths at Yosemite National Park, and three YouTube stars died after falling into a waterfall in Vancouver in July. In June, an Instagrammer well-known for posting photos of her explorations died in a flash flood while investigating a storm drain."

New York Times: "Is Geotagging on Instagram Ruining Natural Wonders? Some Say Yes" — "Sorry, Instagrammers. You are ruining Wyoming.

"Last week, the Jackson Hole Travel & Tourism Board asked visitors to stop geotagging photographs on social media in an effort to protect the state’s pristine forests and remote lakes. Explaining the campaign, Brian Modena, a tourism-board member, suggested the landscape was under threat from visitors drawn by the beautiful vistas on Instagram.

"Delta Lake, a remote refuge surrounded by the towering Grand Tetons, has become 'a poster child for social media gone awry,' Mr. Modena said in an interview last week. 'Influencers started posting from the top of the lake. Then it started racing through social media.' (Influencers, if you don’t know, are people with huge social media followings who sometimes make a living posting about places and products.)

"A few years ago, one or two hikers a day would make the nine-mile trek up to Delta Lake. Now, he said, as many as 145 people are hiking there each day to shoot engagement photos and hawk health supplements. Little-known trails are heavily trafficked and eroding in some places, taxing park resources."

Allison Pohle produced this hour for broadcast.

This program aired on June 18, 2019.



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