Quantifying recreational use of Alaska's national forests

by Kathleen McCoy  |   

Ginny Fay, assistant professor, and Steve Colt, associate professor and interim director of UAA's Institute of Social and Economic Research along with Eric M. White, research economist with the Department of Forest Engineering at Oregon State University, used data surveying and sampling procedures to quantify recreation use of national forests in Alaska.

"Estimating visitor numbers and collecting information on visitor attitudes in Alaska national forests is especially challenging because of the dispersed access to the forests by a relatively small number of visitors. Both the Tongass and Chugach National Forests are millions of acres with miles of saltwater coastline and numerous lakes that allow almost infinite boat and float plane access points. At the same time, few road access points and trailheads exist to concentrate visitors. This dispersed access makes conducting visitor intercept surveys either high cost owing to the large number of intercept sites needed to provide an adequate sample, or less reliable, owing to a smaller number of intercept sites resulting in an inadequate sample. This study identified a number of methods used by land managers in Alaska and other states to address this issue. It also identified other ongoing data collection processes in Alaska such as sport fish angler surveys, traveler surveys, and other systematic efforts that generate data that may be useful for USDA Forest Service efforts to improve their visitor use monitoring processes. The next steps recommended to improve visitor use monitoring are to develop a new visitor monitoring program based on this review of potential methods and then field test the new strategy to see if it can deliver a sustainable program that provides more reliable visitor use estimates at lower costs."

Download and read the full report of the study here (PDF).

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