Forest Service seeks WRNF user input |

Forest Service seeks WRNF user input

JOHN GARDNERGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. The White River National Forest is already the top recreation forest in the nation, and the U.S. Forest Service is looking for some user input to make sure it stays that way.According to reports from the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), national forests support nearly 205 million recreation visits each year, bringing in more than $7.5 billion in revenue. But maintaining developed sites and balancing the wide variety of recreation demands from visitors has proven to be a challenging task for forest managers. However, they’re getting a handle on it, said Tim Lamb, WRNF forestry technician.”We are just now getting in the push for the busy season,” Lamb said. “There is a survey station set up every day at some location in each of the WRNF districts.”The USFS is conducting voluntary recreational-use surveys that help forest managers focus on areas that need attention due to higher use and volume of visitors, as well as other areas that may not need as much, due to decrease in use. The survey will also gather some demographics to indicate who is visiting the forests and what activities they are participating in.The survey may be done at any developed recreation site within a federal forest lands. Visitors are counted and asked to participate in the survey, which tracks each person’s age, race, activity participation, expenditures, length of stay and satisfaction with Forest Service recreation facilities and services.”We still count them even if they don’t want to do the survey,” Lamb said.Counting visitors on a specific day gives the Forest Service a picture of the site’s usage. If they find that use at one particular site has risen in recent years, they can refocus their efforts on maintaining that area better and perhaps cutting down the time spent at another, where the recreation use has diminished.The survey also is an invaluable tool to help bureaucrats in Washington D.C. in determining more efficient ways to distribute funds over the nation’s forests, Lamb said.”It’s designed to look at the whole forest and not just one specific area,” Lamb said. “But it helps us understand the use level at individual sites.”Hanging Lake hiking trail is an obvious spot where WRNF uses the survey, because of the high traffic. But Lamb said it’s also used at the less frequented developed sites too, because it helps in the planning process.”It’s useful information in planning,” Lamb said. “It helps us see what our draw is, it helps us prioritize.”Forest Service employees with neon orange vests will be set up at various sites until September, asking people to participate in the survey. Lamb said it takes less than 10 minutes and that the response so far from visitors has been very helpful.”For the most part the participation level is about 75 percent,” Lamb said. “But some sites are more like 90 to 95 percent participation. It kind of depends on the site and the set up, but most of them are happy to do it.”The first survey for the WRNF was done between October 2002 and September of 2003, and is to be done every five years. This is the second round for the surveys, which began in October and conclude in September. The data will be compiled and compared to the data of the first survey. That data will give accurate information to compare usage levels over time, and continuing surveys will keep the information up to date.Contact John Gardner: 384-9114jgardner@postindependent.comPost Independent, Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO

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