Innovative Ways to Count Recreationists: Headwaters Report

Almost all of my Forest Service contacts said there was a great deal more recreation occurring on the National Forests due to Covid. But they didn’t have counts. Some public affairs sources said they would have to wait for their turn with NVUM (which is not every year for every Forest).

Note: this is just the information I received and/or pieced together from various contacts. Some contacts did not return emails. If this isn’t true, please speak up and comment or email me.

I think Headwaters Economics had a good point that in arguing for recreation budgets, we need to know the numbers. So they developed this report.

I haven’t read it in its entirety, but would like to know what others think.

1. Is counting recreationists important to managers and others?

2, Is NVUM enough? Can it be fixed to be enough?

3. What do you think of Headwaters’ ideas?

4. What are your own ideas (about counting recreationists?)

5. Does it make sense for BLM and the FS to use the same approach since they are all mixed together spatially in parts of the country?

2 thoughts on “Innovative Ways to Count Recreationists: Headwaters Report”

  1. The smartphone-based approaches Headwaters is using make a ton of sense and seem far more reliable than NVUM, which requires humans to stand at trailheads and solicit passersby to take a 20ish minute survey as they’re on their way out in to the woods or are about to head home. Data collection is infrequent and typically only occurs at the highest-use trailheads. Needless to say, most people decline to take the survey. So, there is a huge amount of recreational use that NVUMs simply don’t capture. Another possible approach could be to monitor vehicle traffic in recreation corridors and/or parking rates at trailheads. It wouldn’t be as precise as smartphone data but I suspect there’s a programming wiz out there somewhere who could design an algorithm to estimate forest recreation based on vehicle traffic in known recreation corridors.

  2. The USFS Pacific Northwest Research Station just published their report on this topic based on their study on the Mt Baker Snoqualmie National Forest.

    I found it quite interesting as NVUM always seemed to be limited in scope and not terribly accurate. Using social media could yield better results though it too has limitations. It also is a bit intrusive though perhaps no more so than web use and on-line purchasing trackers.


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