National Forest Visitor Use Monitoring

National and Regional Project Results

September 2002††††††††††††

 

Over 214 million National Forest visits occurred on USDA Forest Service lands, waters, and recreation sites last year!The National Forest Visitor Use Monitoring (NVUM) project provides estimates of recreation and related visitor use on National Forests throughout the United States.The results presented here are from a research process that has so far surveyed visitors on 61 National Forests and Grasslands.During the 11,420 survey days, 64,045 visitors were interviewed.The survey results are compiled at the forest level and expanded to provide estimates at the regional and national levels.As NVUM surveys continue through the remaining two years of the first sampling cycle, these estimates will be updated annually.

 

Existing National Forest plans and other agency needs mandate visitor use monitoring.Thus, NVUM was developed to provide statistically reliable estimates of visitor use to assist with federal land management planning decisions.The survey also provides important information for Congress and external customers including states, private industry, and academia.

 

NVUM data also help answer monitoring elements in the USDA Forest Service Strategic Plan (2000 Revision) and the international monitoring plan 2003 Nations Report on Sustainable Forest Management.Most elements have a fiscal year 2006 target for improvement.In order to measure this improvement baseline data is needed.This information is available upon request.

 

This report provides broad summary information about recreation use and visitor characteristics nationally and at the nine Forest Service regions.Detailed information about visitors at the 61 sampled National Forests is available in separate reports available on the internet at http://www.fs.fed.us/recreation/programs/nvum.In addition, planners and analysts can use the national and regional database to derive other specific information.†† This database is being developed through the Forest Service Natural Resource Information System (NRIS) Human Dimensions module.Check our web site: http://www.fs.fed.us/recreation/programs/nvum for additional information.

 

NVUM reports visitation estimates using standard definitions of national forest visits and national forest site visits that provide comparable estimates of visitor use. The NVUM definitions are as follows:††

A national forest visit is:The entry of one person to a National Forest to participate in recreation activities for an unspecified period of time. A national forest visit can be composed of multiple site visits.

 

A national forest site visit is: the entry of one person to a National Forest site or area to participate in recreation activities for an unspecified period of time.

 

The first full cycle of the NVUM process occurs from January 2000 through September 2003.During each of these four years, 25% of the National Forests will be surveyed.Over time, the database will incorporate information from more forests and consequently, more precise estimates of recreation use.Upon completion of the full cycle, an unparalleled picture of recreation use on National Forests across the country will be obtained.†††

 

Based upon two years of data collection, the average annual visitation to National Forests is 214.1 million National Forest visits plus or minus 19 million visits (8.9% error rate) at the 80% confidence level.The average National Forest visit is made up of 1.2 site visits thus producing 256.2 million National Forest site visits.†† Additionally, there are another 215.4 million occasions of people viewing National Forest scenery (labeled Viewing Corridors in this survey) from non-Forest Service managed roads and waterways.Table 1 summarizes National Forest visits and site visits by region.Note that Viewing Corridors are a special category in the NVUM study intended to measure visitors who view National Forest scenery without using Forest Service facilities.It is important to consider these visitors when land management decisions deal with scenery and tourism strategies.

 

Table 1. National Forest visit, site visit and Wilderness visit estimates by the nine Forest Service regions and national totals (in millions).

 

National

Forest visits

(Millions)

Error rate1

(%)

Site visits

(Millions)

Error rate

(%)

Wilderness

Visits

(Millions - included in total site visits)

Error rate

(%)

Viewing Corridors2

(Millions)

NATIONAL

TOTAL

214.1

+8.9

256.2

+8.9

††† 12.7

+16.8

215.4

Region 1

12.2

+17.1

13.6

+15.8

††††††† .3

+24.3

1.4

Region 2

32.6

+31.7

38.3

+30.3

††††† 1.4

+53.2

55.6

Region 3

18.6

+16.9

22.6

+15.4

†† †††2.8

+41.2

46.9

Region 4

22.0

+16.9

24.0

+16.9

††††††† .9

+59.9

9.7

Region 5

28.7

+25.9

34.7

+26.0

††††††† .9

+33.5

16.3

Region 6

29.4

+28.8

35.7

+26.3

††††† 2.0

+55.2

37.2

Region 8

32.3

+26.1

42.2

+27.8

††††††† .8

+50.6

33.0

Region 9

29.0

+19.2

35.5

+19.9

††††††† .9

+45.5

1.5

Region 10

††† 9.4

+18.7

10.4

+17.5

††††† 2.6

+31.7

13.7

1 Error rates express the precision of the estimate in percentage terms at the 80% confidence level

2 The sample design for Viewing Corridors was not intended to provide estimates of statistical precision

 

 

 

Visitation estimates provided by NVUM, except in the case of Viewing Corridors, are accompanied by statistical measures of precision.These are referred to as error rates, and are derived from variance calculation.They are a function of the standard error and are expressed as a percentage of the visitation estimate. The 80% confidence intervals are lower and upper bounds around the estimate such that one is 80% sure that the true estimated parameter lies within this range.The error rate at the 80% level is simply the half width of the confidence interval expressed as a percent. Estimates that have a high level of precision (low variation) will have low error rates and narrow confidence intervals.

 

In addition to estimating the numbers of visitors, the NVUM program obtained descriptive information about National Forest visitors.This information includes visitorís age, race, activity participation, outdoor recreation expenditure profiles and length of stay.Additionally, information about the visitorís satisfaction with Forest Service facilities and services was collected.

 

Nearly 70 percent (69.7%) ofNational Forest visitors are men.More than ninety percent (92.0%) are white.Visitations from specific minority groups are:Hispanic (3.7% of all visitors), Asian (1.6%), Native American (0.8%), African-American (0.7%) and Pacific Islanders (0.4%).†† Among age groups, the ones representing the greatest proportion of visitors were 31-40 years old (25.4%), 41-50 (24.5%).The 21-30 (11.2%) and 51-60 (11.7%) groups were about the same proportions.†† Children under the age of 16 accounted for 14.3% of visitors.Older Americans made up a much smaller proportion of visitors.Persons between the ages of 61 and 70 made-up about 7.5% of all visitors, and those over age 70 accounted for 2.9%.

 

The average length for a National Forest visit is just slightly less than 19 hours.Almosthalf of all National Forest visits last four hours or less.Only about ten percent of National Forest visits last more than 48 hours.Nationally, the five most popular recreation activities were viewing natural features (52.1% of National Forest visits include this activity),general relaxing (45.3%), viewing wildlife (37.8%), hiking (36.4%) and driving for pleasure (22.5%).Of course, there is much variance between types of visitors to different forests in different regions of the country.Detailed information is available in individual forest and regional reports on the internet at http://www.fs.fed.us/recreation/programs/nvum.

 

Visitor satisfaction with forest service facilities and services is high.Table 2 shows overall visitor satisfaction and importance of 14 items that were rated nationally.

 


Table 2.Satisfaction of USDA Forest Service forest visitors with recreation facilities and services.

 

Item by % response category

 

 

Item Name

Poor

Fair

Average

Good

Very Good

Mean Satisfaction of visitors *

Mean importance to visitors *

Scenery

0.0

0.3

0.6

14.8

84.3

4.8

4.7

Available parking

3.2

4.7

14.3

28.2

49.6

4.2

3.7

Parking lot condition

2.6

4.5

20.4

33.0

39.5

4.0

3.3

Cleanliness of restrooms

2.9

18.5

13.3

30.4

34.9

3.8

3.9

Condition of the natural environment

0.3

1.3

3.2

20.4

74.8

4.7

4.7

Condition of developed recreation facilities

0.5

8.1

8.9

38.7

43.8

4.1

3.6

Condition of forest roads

5.7

10.7

17.7

33.4

32.5

3.8

3.7

Condition of forest trails

0.6

4.3

10.1

36.6

48.4

4.3

4.2

Availability of recreation information

4.4

6.3

17.6

41.1

30.6

3.9

3.9

Feeling of safety

0.5

0.2

3.5

30.3

65.5

4.6

4.3

Adequacy of signage

5.1

5.5

22.2

38.2

29.0

3.8

4.1

Helpfulness of employees

0.2

0.2

9.7

19.9

69.9

4.6

3.8

Attractiveness of the landscape

0.0

0.3

1.9

13.2

84.6

4.8

4.8

Value for fee paid

3.0

1.7

11.4

22.7

54.6

4.2

4.2

 

* Scale is: 1= not very satisfied /important2 = somewhat satisfied/ important3 = moderately satisfied/ important†† 4 = satisfied/ important††† 5 = very satisfied/ important