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Grant funds tool for managing recreation special uses on Prescott NF

Photo: leaf-covered road winds through trees with golden leaves.
Aspens towards the end of autumn on Copper Basin Road, Prescott National Forest; Forest Service photo by Ben DeBlois,

Prescott National Forest natural resource specialists met May 24–25 for a Recreation Capacity Workshop. The workshop is part of an effort to help the forest to make informed decisions about recreation special uses management.

Special use coordinator Jeff Gilmore identified the need for an assessment as the forest experiences increased visitation and demand for services. “This project was initiated to give us a baseline assessment of where we are at with our outfitter-guide program and a sense of how much capacity we have for the program to grow,” explained Gilmore. “Also, the number of proposals received for outfitter-guide permits has increased, and we expect that trend to continue.” Issues related to the larger events include displacement of other visitors and lack of capacity to provide effective monitoring.

A $35,000 grant from the regional office allowed the forest to perform an Outfitter Guides Needs Assessment and a Recreation Capacity Analysis under the guidance of Elizabeth Sousa, an Enterprise employee who specializes in recreation services.

The OGNA uses data from National Visitor Use Monitoring and is informed by Arizona’s Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan. Addressing activities and needs, it identifies whether there is demand for a given service and whether this need is best filled by a commercial outfitter-guide service.

To create the Recreation Capacity Analysis, specialists divided the forest into 20 compartments. The compartments were created based on the different types of use by recreational visitors. They then looked at whether there was illegal use occurring, the level of difficulty in managing use and how many service days each location can handle without adverse consequences to its other resources. When finalized, the RCA will specify an allocation number for each compartment that will be used to inform future requests for special use permits.