Reimagine Recreation Workshop Summary

Here’s a link to the planning effort.

Here’s a link to the report.

We had an offer from the FS to answer questions about the effort, so if you have questions please put them in the comments. It’s at a pretty strategic level. It would be interesting to compare this with the BLM Blueprint for 21st Century Outdoor Recreation. Apparently BLMers participated in the FS effort and vice versa.

I took some bullets out of the report. I don’t think there are many surprises, and many similarities to other FS programs.

The purpose of the workshop was to:
• Share knowledge and learn from one another’s experiences working on complex recreation challenges and opportunities on lands the Forest Service manages.
• Inspire solution-focused brainstorming on recreation issues ripe for national-level action by both partners and the Forest Service.
• Create a space for partners and staff to dissolve barriers to collaboration, illuminate shared interests, and improve communication


Different styles of communication are needed to reach different generations and backgrounds.
• Working with partners to communicate data or other information can be beneficial because partners can typically share information faster than agencies due to the specific focuses of each organization.
• In addition to quantitative data, qualitative or story-telling data is important to gather, understand, and share.
• Consolidate and streamline public communication to create a “one-stop shop” for trip-planning information and data.
• Identify communication strategies and tools that have worked well for the Forest Service and partner organizations to serve as a model for recreation programs moving forward.
• Create a web-based communication platform for partners to share information.


• Representation plays an important role in increasing the diversity of the collective recreation workforce.
• Pursue creative recruiting methods and tools in collaboration with partners and local organizations instead of relying only on traditional approaches.
• Remote work options for recreation positions have increased access to recreation careers.
• Limited housing and high cost of living in areas with high recreation demands has caused ongoing workforce and capacity challenges.
• Recreational employment is increasingly seen as a solid career path rather than a temporary job.


• The stories that are told on public lands should be inclusive to all, well-informed, and developed, with input from the people who the stories are about.
• Clear and consistent communication between partner organizations and the Forest Service is vital to successful, long-term partnerships.
• Equity-centered work is not going to be comfortable.
• Telling diverse stories is not the role of the Forest Service alone and should be done in partnership with other stakeholders, organizations, communities, and individuals.


Making connections between recreation, the economy, resource protection, and long-term vision spur momentum when working with partners and organizations.
• New projects can generate interest among industries and create reciprocal relationships between different entities.
• Focusing on long-term, tangible culture changes rather than short-term successes in an industry or agency can create sustainable change.
• Acknowledging the importance of and building transparent communication builds trust, furthers relationships, and leads to successful projects and endeavors.


Sharing small successes on the way to achieving a broader vision can help maintain momentum to complete long-term projects.
• Cross-boundary collaboration can occur across roles, skill sets, and entities.
• Using a more strategic approach would be beneficial around (1) the types of resources that are being dispersed and (2) where resources are shared to decrease competition between agencies.


• Visitor use management data can be leveraged to make informed decisions about improving recreation and other infrastructure. This type of data should be part of infrastructure investment conversations.
• Informing and educating visitors before they arrive at recreation sites is crucial. Conservation messaging can be woven into visitor communications before visitors arrive.
• Recreation and conservation organizations need to consider the perspectives and voices of Native American Tribes and respect Tribal wishes on how to use and manage public lands.

Recreation is part of a larger ecosystem and should be woven together with other issues and interests, from wildland fire and fire management to economic development.
• “Everyone who steps into the natural world has the tool to develop an environmental ethic.”
• Agency and organizational culture matters! Forest Service staff need to be consistently supported to show up as a great partner. This includes fostering a culture of transparency and willingness to share responsibility from the highest levels of the agency.
• Cross-boundary collaboration requires that we depend on one another’s strengths and engage partners and organizations to fill the gaps.
• Agency staffing levels and turnover negatively impact relationships. The Forest Service should invest in “professionalizing” the recreation workforce, streamline hiring processes using private partners, engage in transition planning, and coordinate with local governments on shared issues such as limited housing.
• Recreation funding is challenging and requires stability, flexibility, and streamlining.
• Data can convey great meaning, especially when framed as part of achieving
collective goals.
• Equity-centered work is not easy work. We must commit to take up this challenge
together, embrace tough conversations, and deepen our relationship with the
history of the land.
• The Forest Service should base recreation planning and stewardship work in
community, place, and relationships.
• “Recreation management is an all-hands-on-deck situation.”


9 thoughts on “Reimagine Recreation Workshop Summary”

  1. Just like the BLM’s blueprint document, I see lots of vague platitudes and generalities filled with feel-good buzzwords and nothing concrete or actionable. No mention of specific problems or even an attempt to list specific potential solutions. Lots of vague talk about equity but no specifics on what that means, aside from the common theme I’ve seen in land management agencies lately which conflates equity with listening to tribal perspectives, and in practice that means only listening to tribes that agree with extreme environmentalists rather than those who want to see productive use federal lands.

    Meanwhile if the Forest Service really wanted to “embrace tough conversations” around equity, perhaps they might look at how a decades long over-emphasis on preservation and re-wilding focused conservation has systematically discriminated against people with disabilities by depriving them of reasonable motorized access to public lands. But of course nobody wants to have that conversation.

    • To be fair, see how general they are.. folks tell me they are “high-level” and strategic documents. They are asked to do these kinds of strategies documents and involve lots of people. It could be argued that the same funding would be better spent actually doing things, or developing more concrete proposals with partners. I hope something good comes from meeting and talking with like-minded folks. Also I think formally moving beyond “sustainable recreation” is good.

  2. I can access local NF on literally hundreds of miles of good roads via sedan, and countless more via 4Wd and hundreds of miles of ATV trails… Seems reasonable to me.

  3. As I mentioned earlier, this is a high-level planning effort with some of the highest level employees in the FS. When I took the initial concept to the field, many Line Officers had never heard of it. Them, I drilled down to Forest and District Rec folks. They hadn’t really heard of it either; when I brought up the piece on partners, they assured me the partners are already stretched thin. They wanted Rec positions filled, G & A vacancies processed, more tangible and tactical discussions to meet the challenges today.

    I didn’t get a “warm and fuzzy” feeling about this early on. I haven’t followed the efforts since. From what I’ve seen, many Forests are engaged in multiple planning efforts, searching and planning until they get the answers they want!

    I wish the group fantastic success, while realizing it’ll look good on a shelf – somewhere…..

    • Kinda funny, I’ve seen a lot of talk from both the BLM and Forest Service about partnering with recreation groups to get stuff done. However a partnership requires trust that the agency won’t just turn around and stab you in the back at the first opportunity.

      Which is exactly what with agencies have been doing lately to motorized groups they claim to be partnering with. We pour tons of our own money and volunteer hours, as well as state grant money, into maintaining trails and then the agencies go and close those exact same trails in the next travel plan without a word of acknowledgement that they’ve even considered our comments or our contributions as partners. If this is how agency partners are treated, not many groups are going to be interested in partnering with them in the future.

      • Wow! Where is that happening? Quite the opposite here on Northern Sierra Forests. Wonder what is driving what you’re experiencing. Personnel changes perhaps?

        • I know for sure with the Forest Service in Colorado and the BLM in Utah, with the two travel plans that I am a plaintiff challenging in court.

          In Colorado we’re challenging the closure of most of an entire trail system in the Pike National Forest called Wildcat Canyon, where the trails had been maintained for years by a local 4×4 group, then were temporarily closed after a forest fire in the early 2000s. The Forest Service subsequently did a NEPA project where they decided to reopen the trails by giving the two counties they were in easements over them, but then reneged on the deal by only granting an easement to one of the two counties and blocked the other county from getting its easement for so long it eventually gave up. Then in the new travel plan adopted in 2022 the forest decided to permanently decommission the trails in the second county even though they’ve been continually driven by the public this entire time and are still very much desired by the offroad community, with local 4×4 groups still willing and eager to conduct all needed maintenance. It really was a slap in the face to FS partners who had been working in good faith to maintain these trails and make them sustainable for decades.

          It’s a similar situation with the BLM’s new Labyrinth Rims Gemini Bridges travel plan in Moab, Utah. There the BLM closed dozens of highly popular 4×4 and dirt bike trails that had been regularly maintained by local motorized clubs through work projects done in close cooperation with the Moab Field Office for decades, including multiple Easter Jeep Safari trails and the most popular dirt bike trail in the entire region. The BLM made no acknowledgement of any of these clubs’ work to ensure these trails were sustainable and simply declared they had unacceptable environmental impacts and needed to be closed.

  4. Sharon: “Also I think formally moving beyond “sustainable recreation” is good.”
    Patrick: “The BLM made no acknowledgement of any of these clubs’ work to ensure these trails were sustainable and simply declared they had unacceptable environmental impacts …”

    I’ll admit I was always kind of mystified by the concept of “sustainable recreation.” But if it means anything it seems like it should mean that trails can’t have unacceptable environmental impacts. Which could happen despite efforts to prevent them, so I don’t see a contradiction if closing these trails is the only thing that would be effective. (Maybe they should have said a public “thank you for your service?”) But what would “beyond” sustainable recreation be?

    • I think the problem is you are assuming that the concept of “sustainable recreation” has any kind of objective meaning. In reality what is considered sustainable is completely subjective and is ultimately a political decision whether to call something sustainable or unsustainable.

      The BLM gets to define what what unacceptable impacts are and can use whatever set of facts they think justifies the decision they’ve made. Which in the case of many of the trails in Moab was basically “we care about other recreation users more than motorized users so we’ve decided to give them exclusive access because they complained about vehicle noise, even though the RMP zones these areas for shared use or even says motorized recreation is supposed to be emphasized here.” They also made up a bunch of nonsense about impacts to bighorn sheep from roads that have existed and been regularly used for 70 years with the sheep long since accustomed to them, and directly contradicted the findings in their own resource management plan that said all these trails were sustainable and didn’t cause excessive impacts to either bighorn sheep or other recreation users.

      If the agency actually valued their partnership with motorized clubs or cared about the quality of the motorized experience in the area, they could easily have made a different decision and given whatever rationale they wanted to justify it. In fact the way the alternatives were structured in that travel plan, each one had a ready-to-go rationale statement for either closing a road or keeping it open. It would have been trivial for the agency to simply decide to keep the most valuable routes open as a gesture of good will toward partner organizations which had helped them out a lot over the years, and pick the rationale that justified that decision. Instead they choose to close almost all of the most valuable trails in the area, and used unfounded allegations of “user conflict” (meaning annoyance to non-motorized users in adjacent areas) as the primary justification for many of them. The blatant and unabashed favoritism toward non-motorized users was the real slap in the face to motorized groups.

      Interestingly, we’ve heard through the grape vine that if the decision was up to the Moab Field Office, they actually would kept a lot more roads open, but they were overridden by the national BLM leadership and ordered to close a lot more roads. That included Tracy Stone Manning and Nina Wolff Culver, the latter of whom used to be with the Wilderness Society which was one of the main organizations lobbying for all the closures in the different Utah travel plans. Which just goes to show it was about politics all along, and didn’t actually have anything to do with what is truly sustainable or not.

      In the end, these travel management decisions, like everything else in politics, were about rewarding the friends of those in power and inflicting pain upon their enemies. If that’s how land management decisions are going to be made, so be it, but then the agencies shouldn’t claim the moral high ground and hide behind the guise of objective science to pretend their decisions are anything but an exercise of raw political power. And if that’s the way the game is going to be played, then any “partnerships” between recreation groups and land management agencies can’t really be trusted to produce longer term results than the end of the current presidential administration.


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