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Respect the River/Rio — Resource Managers

A Forest Service employee inventories a dispersed campsite near a stream bankMonitoring

Dispersed recreation becomes a problem when it starts impacting sensitive areas like riparian habitats. The following guidelines will help set up a campsite monitoring program and a contact ranger program.

Dispersed Campsite Monitoring

  1. Determine which areas are being impacted.
    • Is activity here causing habitat damage?
    • Is the Respect the River or Respect the Rio program beneficial here?
  2. Measure the extent of the dispersed campsite damage.
  3. Enter the data from the inventories into a database program.
    • Once entered, queries can be done to make the data easy to analyze.
    • The same database can be joined with campsite improvement data and social survey data.
  4. Use data from inventory to make improvements.
    • Campsite improvements can be made from suggestions offered in the campsite inventory data.
    • It is a good idea to keep track of the improvements made. Improvements can be documented on a campsite improvement form.
    • Record the improvement data in the database program.
    • Queries can be done to see changes or improvements made over time.
    • Depending on resources and problems being addressed, full inventories should be repeated periodically to track changes in dispersed recreation impacts.

Contact Ranger Program

A Contact Ranger giving a temporary tattoo to a smiling boy while his parents watchThe Contact Ranger program can be an effective tool in changing behavior of recreationists and campers. Even though Respect the River and Respect the Rio focus on riparian areas, the Contact Ranger program can be tailored to fit other needs.

To be most effective, the Contact Ranger program should be strictly educational even if Forest Service employees are used instead of volunteers. Law enforcement should be a separate component; Contact Rangers can contact law enforcement with any violations they see.

  1. Set up Contact Ranger program.
    • The Contact Ranger program should coincide with the busiest dispersed recreation period to reach as much of the visiting public as possible.
    • Contact Rangers can be Forest Service employees, Student Conservation Association interns, or volunteers.
    • Determine what the goal(s) of the Contact Ranger program will be. (For example, to educate the dispersed campers about the finer points of camping, to gather information about a possible fee demo program, to inform visitors and campers about current or future restoration projects in the area.)
  2. Conduct social surveys.
    • A social survey form can be used to collect the information you need to better reach your goal(s).
      - Example 1
      - Example 2
      - Example 3
    • Contact Rangers should work in pairs for safety reasons.
    • Each dispersed campsite is visited and data is collected based on occupancy.
    • At campsites where people are present, the Contact Rangers introduce themselves, briefly mention what the Respect the River or Respect the Rio program is about, disseminate any other information to meet the goals, and ask to gather any data needed for the social survey form.
    • It is always good to carry brochures (such as the Be a River-Friendly Camper or state fishing regulations) and other information (such as fire restrictions) that can be given to campers or used as a reference for Contact Rangers to answer questions. Other promotional items such as temporary tattoos are also a crowd pleaser.
    • Enter the social survey data collected into the database.
    • Queries can be done to determine the audience being reached, the frequency of use between sites, recreational activities, average number of camping days and much more.
    • Goals of the Contact Ranger program and format of the social survey may change with each season, depending on survey results, changes in resource damage, etc.

If you have questions about any of the materials or would like a CD containing all materials available, please contact a Forest Respect the River/Rio representative.


U.S. Forest Service
Last modified: April 12, 2012

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