Deliver Benefits to the Public

New interagency tools available to manage visitor use

WASHINGTON, DC—Every year, people seek out public lands and waters to pursue a growing variety of recreation experiences. Opportunities for access, the condition of the environment and the quality of visitor experiences are increasingly important as the Forest Service seeks to provide excellent customer service. To ensure that everyone can enjoy the benefits of recreation, managers need effective ways to manage use so these special places and the benefits they provide persist for current and future generations. Faced with growing and changing visitor use, federal land managers are increasingly challenged to respond to a complex array of needs and opportunities.

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2014 National Visitor Use Monitoring Surveys on North Kaibab District, Kaibab National Forest. USDA Forest Service photo by David Hercher.
Cross-country skiing on national forest.
Kaibab National Forest offers recreational opportunities for all seasons. Visitors can rent historic cabins that put them right in the midst of the action. USDA photo by Lance Cheung.

The Interagency Visitor Use Management Council is a collaborative forum that has brought together six federal land and water agencies to share and leverage practical, science-based tools for managing recreation on America’s most iconic and valued public lands and waters. The council is designed to build common language and institutional knowledge of management techniques through the development and sharing of tools, training, technical assistance, and best practices.

Recently developed council tools include: 

  • The Visitor Use Management Framework,
  • The Visitor Capacity Guidebook and 
  • The Monitoring Guidebook.

Since these tools became available, Forest Service managers have been using them in many aspects of recreation planning. One recent example is an ongoing project on the San Bernardino National Forest, where Enterprise program staff are collaborating with forest staff and key stakeholders to develop a site design and recreation plan for the Lytle Creek area. This much-loved site is experiencing demand for improved infrastructure, better parking management and resolution of recreation-related conflicts. Specialists reviewed existing information, developed desired conditions and gathered public input and are now preparing management recommendations and indicators of success for evaluation and adaptation. Following the framework has provided a clear and transparent methodology that will allow for a thoughtful application of design and planning to better serve Forest visitors.

IVUMC projects under development include guidance on writing desired conditions for large and small planning efforts and online training for the Visitor Use Management Framework.

For more information on the framework, guidebooks, and other tools and references, visit the visitor use management web page.

Several Forest Service employees are working with the council. If you are interested in opportunities to assist the Council, contact one of the following: