United States


The United States of America (USA) occupies North America between Canada and Mexico, bordering both the North Atlantic Ocean in the east and the North Pacific Ocean in the west. It is the world’s third-largest country by size, after Russia and Canada. The USA consists of a vast central plain, mountainous west, and hilly in the east. The highest point is Mount McKinley (aka Denali) at 6,194 meters (20,320 feet), and Death Valley the lowest point at -86 meters (-282 feet). Environment issues include air pollution resulting in acid rain, water pollution from runoff of pesticides and fertilizers, limited natural freshwater resources in much of the western part of the country, and desertification. The Green Party of the United States was founded in 1991 as a voluntary association of state green parties to address these issues.

There are nine regions in the United States which are both Biosphere Reserves and inscribed as World Heritage. The California Coast Ranges Biosphere Reserve is made up of several units, one of which is the Redwood National Park which is also a World Heritage site. In Montana, Glacier National Park is both a biosphere reserve and world heritage, as part of the international peace park. In Wyoming, Yellowstone National Park is both a biosphere reserve and world heritage. In Florida, Everglades National Park is not only both a biosphere reserve and world heritage, but also on the List of World Heritage in Danger for threatened species such as the manatee, or ‘sea cow’. In Washington state, Olympic National Park is both a biosphere reserve and world heritage. On the North Carolina-Tennessee border, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is also both biosphere reserve and world heritage. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is both biosphere reserve and world heritage too. In Alaska, Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve also belongs to a biosphere reserve and world heritage. In Kentucky, Mammoth Cave National Park, part of the longest known cave system in the world, is both biosphere reserve and world heritage.

The National Park Service Office of International Affairs coordinates programs, such as World Heritage, Sister Parks, and International Volunteers. In December 2004, during the first term of George W. Bush’s presidency, the Republican dominated 108th United States Congress passed the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (FLREA), as part of the Omnibus Appropriations bill for 2005, which allows the government to charge a fee for recreational use of public lands managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Reclamation, the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service; FLREA also authorized a new inter-agency recreation pass, the “America the Beautiful – National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass”, currently US$80 per year. Originally founded in 1919, the National Parks Conservation Association was established as a watchdog for the national park system. Likewise, the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees is dedicated to study, educate, speak, and act for preservation and protection of America’s national park system.

The Association of Nature Center Administrators is a professional organization for nature and environmental learning center directors and administrators; and, NatureFind is a location based service that helps you find great nature places and events throughout the country. (See also the Wikipedia List of nature centers in the United States, by state.) The Alaska Wilderness Recreation & Tourism Association is the trade association for wilderness-dependent businesses, and includes their member directory. California Watchable Wildlife celebrates the state’s wildlife and diverse habitats by elevating the value of wildlife viewing. Florida’s Hernando County has a Naturally Hernando site for Florida’s ‘Nature Coast’. The Hawaii Ecotourism Association has their member directory online. The Kansas Nature-Based Tourism Alliance Natural Kansas website is your portal to many wildlife watching opportunities in the heart of the Great Plains. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources maintains a web portal for all about outdoor recreation on public lands. The Eastern Upper Peninsula Nature Tourism Alliance maintains The Great Waters portal, all about what to see and do in Michigan’s tri-state area. NCGreenTravel.com is a program of the North Carolina Division of Environmental Assistance and Outreach to promote growth and stewardship in travel and hospitality. The Center for Economic and Environmental Development at Allegheny College has put together a site on Nature Tourism in Northwest Pennsylvania. The South Carolina Nature-Based Tourism Association website helps find your favorite nature adventure. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has a nature tourism program, Nature Tourism in the Lone Star State, listing opportunities for nature tourism. The Texas Nature Tourism Council is a council of the Texas Travel Industry Association, with the mission is to promote nature tourism in Texas; Texas A&M operates a complimentary Nature Tourism Development portal for professionals.

Biosphere reserves:

IUCN members:


Britain’s American colonies broke with the mother country in 1776 and were recognized as the new nation of the United States of America following the Treaty of Paris in 1783. During the 19th and 20th centuries, 37 new states were added to the original 13 as the nation expanded across the North American continent and acquired a number of overseas possessions. The two most traumatic experiences in the nation’s history were the Civil War (1861-65) and the Great Depression of the 1930s. The African-American Civil Rights Movement (1955–1968) refers to the social movements in the United States aimed at outlawing racial discrimination. The Gullah people are the descendants of slaves who live in the South Carolina Lowcountry and Georgia Sea Islands.

The American Indian Wars is the name used in the United States to describe a series of conflicts between American settlers or the federal government and the native peoples of North America, following which they were relegated to Indian reservations. Today, Indian country refers any of the many self-governing Native American communities throughout the United States. (See Wikipedia List of Indian reservations in the United States.) Lakota, Ben Sherman is a prominent figure in the Denver based Indian Country consultancy and Native Tourism Alliance, as well as co-founder of the World Indigenous Tourism Alliance. The American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association is a national organization based in Albuquerque. The White Mountain Apache Tribe Office of Tourism has a page on the tribal website; but, White Mountain Apache Tribe Game & Fish has its own website. The Navajo Tourism Department maintains its own competitive website. Information about the Montana Tribal Tourism Alliance is included on the Montana Office of Indian Affairs website. The Alliance of Tribal Tourism Advocates was organized in 1993 by nine South Dakota tribes of the Oceti Sakowin, or seven council fires of the Great Sioux Nation. Native American Tourism of Wisconsin was launched as a state wide initiative in 1994 by the Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Council. The Native Hawaiian Hospitality Association was founded in 1997 to address concerns about how Native Hawaiians and Hawaiian culture were perceived and represented in tourism. The National Association of Tribal Historic Preservation Officers is an organization of tribal government officials who implement federal and tribal preservation laws. The United States Department of the Interior, Indian Affairs maintains a comprehensive online Tribal Directory, with links. Note, there is a specially designated Internet domain for federally recognized tribes, officially referred to as Native Sovereign Nations (NSN), *.NSN.GOV or *.NSN.US.

In keeping with the free market ideals of the United States it has not enjoyed a consistent tourism policy making body, such as a ministry of tourism in other countries; and, consistent with the tradition of jealously guarding its own sovereignty in international forums, the US has not historically seen eye to eye with the World Tourism Organization, now UNWTO, in terms of global policy issues. UNWTO has been promoting the use of sustainable tourism indicators since the early 1990s, as essential instruments for policy-making planning and management processes. Carsharing is the latest environmental innovation to hit the car rental business, with Zipcar leading the pack in limited urban markets. The National Scenic Byways Program is part of the Federal Highway Administration, established to recognize roadways as All-American Roads or National Scenic Byways based on recreational or scenic qualities. (See also Wikipedia National Forest Scenic Byways.) Carbon offset is a reduction in emissions of carbon dioxide or greenhouse gases made in order to compensate for an emission made elsewhere, such as by driving or flying. According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, planes are being boarded well over 700 million times a year in the US. American Forests provides as number of ways to “click to plant trees” in the United States for personal carbon offset. The national railroad passenger corporation, Amtrak, remains a recommended way to see America, following the historic routes of a developing nation. The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy is creating a nationwide network of recreational trails from former, disused rail lines. Since 1976, the American Hiking Society has worked on behalf of trails and hikers. The National Center for Bicycling & Walking was formed out of the former Bicycle Federation of America, to change the way American communities are planned, designed and managed. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection maintains their Greenways & Trails System Plan online, including extensive paddling trails. Equine tourism is a growing and diverse segment of the horse industry; the American Horse Council links to its member state horse councils, which in turn usually link to their members’ services.

Heritage tourism is the branch of tourism oriented towards the cultural heritage of a destination. Cultural Heritage Tourism functions as an electronic clearinghouse, formed by a national coalition of ‘Partners in Tourism’. The National Register of Historic Places is the official list of the nation’s historic places. The National Park Service’s Cultural Resources Programs are dedicated to history, education, and grants. The Alliance of National Heritage Areas is a professional organization for national heritage areas. The Institute of Outdoor Drama provides a state-by-state member listing of outdoor historical dramas. The Connecticut Office of Culture & Tourism was created in 2003 to bring together arts, historic preservation, and tourism. The Florida Division of Historical Resources maintains the Florida heritage tourism interactive catalog. Florida’s Volusia County has an ECHO tourism website, highlighting their Ecological, Cultural, Historical and Outdoor activities. The University of Louisiana Center for Cultural and Eco-Tourism seeks to preserve and share the traditions of Louisiana’s culture and environment. Louisiana Division of the Arts Folklife in Louisiana site helps people explore Louisiana folk traditions and groups. The Maine Arts Commission Maine Art Museum Trail is a guide to Maine’s seven leading art museums. NC State University Cooperative Extension hosts the online version of Homegrown Handmade, art roads and farm trails of North Carolina. The Tennessee Overhill Heritage Association maintains an online directory of heritage tourism options for a three county region in southeast Tennessee. The Texas Historical Commission is the state agency for historic preservation. Utah Cultural Heritage Tourism is a gateway to information about existing programs, opportunities and technical assistance within the state. The Vermont Forest Heritage Trail is a highway-based, regionally-themed itinerary and driving tour. The Preservation Alliance of West Virginia is a statewide grassroots organization supporting historic preservation.

Formed in 1891, the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union (HERE) was a United States labor union representing workers of the hospitality industry; today UNITE HERE maintains the Hotel Workers Rising website, with an active Boycott List as well as Union Hotels Guide iPhone app. Although UNITE HERE called Hyatt “the worst hotel employer in America”, it is one hotel chain that operates and active corporate responsibility platform, Hyatt Thrive. The American Bed and Breakfast Association is an organization dedicated to the promotion of bed & breakfast inns nationwide. Founded in 1934, Hostelling International USA now operates a network of over 50 quality hostels across the US. WWOOF USA helps organize volunteer and work exchange opportunities on organic farms around the country. GrowFood connects farmers interested in teaching with people interested in learning about farming. The Fellowship for Intentional Community maintains the Intentional Communities Directory, including a state-by-state listing of ecovillages, communes, etc. The National Catholic Rural Life Conference maintains a list of Religious Communities on the Land, such as monasteries.

Agritourism is a form of rural tourism, generally well developed across much of the US, with most states having some kind directory or coordinating body. There is an Alabama Agri-Tourism Trail. The University of California has developed an online California Agricultural Tourism Directory. The University of Connecticut hosts the Connecticut Farm Map, a guide to Connecticut’s agricultural destinations. The Delaware Agritourism Association Delaware Farm Adventure Trail online. The Georgia Agritourism Association lists seasonal festivals, farmers markets, wine tastings, and more. The Hawaii AgriTourism Association lists farms and tours for each island. There is even a web portal for Hawaii Agricultural Tourism. Illinois Ag Fun is a comprehensive guide to agritourism in Illinois. For traveling Kentucky’s diverse landscape, Kentucky Farms Are Fun presents a directory of agritourism adventures. ‘Southeast Michigan Kids Eat Free’ has a U-Pick Michigan directory online. The Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce lists Mississippi Agritourism resources. The State of New Jersey Department of Agriculture has a Jersey Fresh portal, featuring agritourism events and attractions. The North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services has a VisitNCFarms.com directory, with the agritourism resources available in their state. Oregon Country Trails is Oregon’s only branded, rural tourism system. The Pennsylvania Farm Vacation Association operates PA Farmstay, an online directory of farmstay vacations. The Tennessee Department of Agriculture, Market Development Division website Pick Tennessee Products makes all manner of Tennessee goodness available for visitors. Since 1998, the Vermont Farms Association provides the public with educational opportunities about agriculture. The Wisconsin Agricultural Tourism Association indexes the agritourism destinations for their state. The Texas A&M hosted National Extension Tourism functions as an information clearinghouse for USDA cooperative extension tourism programs nationally.

World heritage:

ICCROM members:


  • Using Knowledge Management to Increase Use of Sustainable Tourism Business Practices: a Case Study for Indiana by A Boggs, J Day, J La Lopa & L Cai, 2013
  • Ecotourism as a revenue-generating activity in South Carolina Lowcountry plantations by GA Campbell, TJ Straka & RM Franklin, 2011
  • Empowering Native Americans: Communication, Planning, and Dialogue for Eco-Tourism in Gallup, New Mexico by M LaFever, 2011
  • GIS Application for Ecotourism: Distributed Geographic Information of the Lower Cahaba River Basin, Alabama, USA by M Pathak, 2011
  • Legislative Perceptions of Sustainable Tourism: The Case of the North Carolina General Assembly by S Arnold, 2011
  • South Mountain ecoresort: bringing ecotourism to the Southwest: Phoenix, Arizona by JL Lanning, 2011
  • Sustainable tourism in New England gateway cities: a case study of New Bedford, Massachusetts by C Barry, 2011
  • Sustainable Tourism Transportation in Hawaii: a Holistic Approach by G Lohmann, DN Nguyen – Island Tourism: Sustainable, 2011
  • California Sustainable Tourism Marketing Handbook by WW Hendricks & JB Greenwood, 2010
  • Classification Of Forest-based Ecotourism Areas In Pocahontas County Of West Virginia Using GIS And Pairwise Comparison by I Dhami & J Deng, 2010
  • Hillbilly skits to Buford sticks sustainable heritage tourism in Tennessee by HL Bailey, 2010
  • An Ecotourism Brand For Rural Maine – The Time Is Right by D Vail, 2009
  • Seasonal cycles and long-term trends in abundance and species composition of sharks associated with cage diving ecotourism activities in Hawaii by CG Meyer, JJ Dale & YP Papastamatiou, 2009
  • A Montana lodge and the case for a broadly defined ecotourism by AB Pearce & C Ocampo-Raeder, 2008
  • Guidance for Sustainable Tourism in Kotzebue, Alaska by AC Alvite, 2008
  • Steps to success for rural entrepreneurs: Starting an ecotourism business in Alaska by TL Johnson, 2008
  • The Sustainable Tourism Laboratory, Blackstone Valley, Rhode Island, USA by L Quick, 2008
  • Ecolodge: Design of an Ecotourism Destination at Heron Pond/Little Black Slough, Illinois by YC Lin, 2007
  • Ecotourism’s Contribution to the Social-ecological Resilience of Protected Areas and Local Communities: A Comparative Analysis of Rural, Dryland Ecotourism in Costa Rica and Kansas by J Gallaher, 2007
  • Ecotourism in Florida: Letting Nature Work for You by MN Best, 2007
  • Grunion Greeters in California: Beach Spawning Fish, Coastal Stewardship, Beach Management and Ecotourism by K Martin, A Staines, M Studer, 2007
  • State of Sustainable Tourism in Minnesota: 2007 by TT Hung, 2007
  • Sustainable development in a tourism destination context: A Plimsoll model of sustainability for Tyrrell County, North Carolina by JB Greenwood, 2007
  • Ecotourism in Meadville, Pennsylvania: Interpretive Bicycling and Canoeing Package Tours by B Schoenborn, 2006
  • Stakeholder Meeting on Red Wolf Ecotourism in North Carolina by J Flood & C Parker, 2006
  • An Ecotourism Quality Label for Maine? by D Vail, 2005
  • Ecotourism in Walton County, Florida by MS Cox, 2005
  • Participation, Power And Racial Representation: Negotiating Ecotourism Development In Hamilton County, Florida by JLH Gallardo, 2005
  • Putting traffic lights on the road less traveled: ecotourism certification & its potential for Hawaii by WK Bauckham, 2005
  • Red wolves: creating economic opportunity through ecotourism in rural North Carolina by GYB Lash & P Black, 2005
  • Sustainable tourism in Hawaii: economic and environmental modeling study by D Konan & K Kim, 2005
  • Sustainable tourism and stakeholder groups: a case study of Colorado ski resort communities by RR Perdue, 2004
  • The Economic Value of Water for Ecosystem Preservation: Ecotourism in the Texas Lower Rio Grande Valley by M Mathis, D Matisoff, T Pritchett, 2004
  • The Florida manatee and eco-tourism: toward a safe minimum standard by BD Solomon, CM Corey-Luse & KE Halvorsen, 2004
  • Valuing Nature in Texas: A Characterization of Ecotourism in the Texas Lower Rio Grande Valley by M Mathis & D Matisoff, 2004
  • An analysis of variables that influence stakeholder participation and support for sustainable tourism development in rural North Carolina by ET Byrd Jr, 2003
  • Assessing indicators relating to overall tourist satisfaction of ecotourism developments in eastern North Carolina by CL Ellis & H Vogelsong, 2003
  • Assessing nature’s role in ecotourism development in Florida: Perspectives of tourism professionals and government decision-makers by TV Stein, JK Clark, JL Rickards, 2003
  • Destiny 2000: A Sustainable Tourism Plan for Down East Maine by D Danz, 2003
  • Illinois River Valley Action Plan for Sustainable Tourism, 2003 by K Jaworski, 2003
  • Planning for Sustainable Tourism in Hawaii: A Study on the Carrying Capacity for Tourism by DBEDT, 2003
  • Rural Economic Development Potential Through Ecotourism for the Suwannee River, Florida Area Through 2015 by M Bonn & FW Bell, 2003
  • Elk viewing in Pennsylvania: an evolving eco-tourism system by BE Lord, CH Strauss & MJ Powell, 2002
  • Lessons from Hawaii and the Pacific Rim–experiences in sustainable tourism by M White, 2002
  • Patterns of Ecotourism Visitation in Shawnee National Forest Campgrounds, Illinois: Seasonal and Geographic Analysis of Overnight Outdoor Camping Market by NY Kil, 2002
  • Wilderness in the Circumpolar North: Searching for Compatibility in Ecological, Traditional, and Ecotourism Values: 2001 May 15-16, Anchorage, Alaska by AE Watson, L Alessa & J Sproull, 2002
  • Applying Ecotourism Diagnostic Guidelines in Managing Minnesota State Parks by JH Lindberg, 2001
  • Compatibility of Community-based Ecotourism with Stakeholder Use and Perception of Natural Resources in Les Chenaux, Michigan by C Culberg, 2001
  • Ecotourism: A natural alternative for exploring New Jersey by K Kosko, 2001
  • New Jersey Eco-tourism Guide by NJ Sea Grant Consortium, 2001
  • Sustainable Tourism: Challenges and Opportunities for Hawaii by B Lane, 2001
  • Breeding Bird Surveys and Ecotourism Potential at Laredo, Webb County, Texas by MC Woodin, MK Skoruppa & GC Hickman, 2000
  • Coastal ecotourism guide: northern New Jersey by KC Kosko & EC Nelsen, 2000
  • Ecotourism and conservation: richness of terrestrial vertebrates across Texas by EA Holt, 2000
  • Ecotourism Guidelines: a Case Study of South Carolina by G Charles, 2000
  • Ecotourism in North Florida: A Study Measuring the Existing Attitudes of Current Participants by ML Davis, 2000
  • Planning for Ecotourism on the Coast of Maine by N Springuel, 2000
  • Property rights and sustainable nature tourism: adaptation and mal-adaptation in Dalarna (Sweden) and Maine (USA) by D Vail & L Hultkrantz, 2000
  • Coastal ecotourism guide–central New Jersey by K Kosko & LS Young, 1999
  • Development of an Eco‐tourism Strategy for Texas by T Var, 1999
  • Sustainable Design and Ecotourism at the Topsail Hill State Preserve, Florida by BH Lloyd, 1999
  • Sustainable Tourism Planning and Transportation in Texas by ML Pincus, C Perry, NK Dogoe, H Kinder & E Lindquist, 1999
  • The Enduring Seminoles: From Alligator Wrestling to Ecotourism by P West, 1998
  • Toward a sustainable tourism and recreation industry in Montana: An examination of concepts and industry perceptions by SF McCool, C Burgess, N Nickerson, 1998
  • Newport, Rhode Island – America’s First Resort: Lessons in Sustainable Tourism by MR Evans, 1997
  • The Potential to Develop the State of Mississippi into an Ecotourism Destination by Z Mogal & J Agrusa, 1997
  • Behavioral Response of Atlantic Puffins to Ecotourism at Eastern Egg Rock, Maine by TL Jackson, 1996
  • Ecotourism: Marshalling Resources To Promote New Jersey’s Ecotourism Treasures by SB Price, 1996
  • Ecotourism as a rural development strategy in Oregon by P Corcoran, 1996
  • From sea to sea: ecotourism Trends in Alaska and Canada by M Anderson, 1996
  • Newton County Arkansas Ecotourism Feasibility Study by C Romund & WP Miller, 1996
  • The evaluation of the indicators and standards management method for the measurement of ecotourism impacts in the Big Bend Region of Texas by LM Hill, 1996
  • Ecotourism and birds in coastal New Jersey: contrasting responses of birds, tourists, and managers by J Burger, M Gochfeld & LJ Niles, 1995
  • Ecotourism planning guide for Alaska native landowners by JD Allaway, 1995
  • Pennsylvania ecotourism: untapped potential by JC Haney & RL Schaadt, 1995
  • Status of anchorage suitability for use by ecotourism charter boat operators and guides in Southeast Alaska by RJ Ellis & NI Calvin, 1995
  • Sustainable tourism: an environmental impact assessment of the tourist industry in the Old Forge, New York area by TJH Worrall, 1995
  • The Interaction of Land, Water, and Man in the Lower Mississippi Delta: A Study of the Potential of the Region for Heritage and Eco-tourism by S Akers & SC Artunc, 1995
  • Ecotourism in Florida: a local look at a global approach by MH Carr, KH Wilson, 1994
  • Sustainable Tourism Heritage Trails in Nebraska by BJ Hill & D Gibbons, 1994
  • The economic impact of birding ecotourism on the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge Area, Texas by P Kerlinger, 1994
  • The Economic Impact of Ecotourism on the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge Area 1993-1994 (Oregon) by P Kerlinger, 1994
  • A profile of marine-based ecotourism enterprises in Washington State by C Roberts, 1993
  • Potential impacts of eco-tourism on manatees in Florida by K Curtin & SL Tyson, 1993
  • Ecotourism: A New Marketing Tool For Arizona by LV Kwok, 1992
  • Sustainable Tourism Development in South Central Oklahoma: Theory, Case Study and Model by L Caneday & T Duston, 1992

United States Data