Officials interested in forest-user habits

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U.S. Forest Service officials will be asking Routt National Forest users questions in the next year as part of a nationwide effort to gather information about the people who enjoy the more primal parts of the United States.

The Forest Service wants to know how many people use the Routt Forest, what they do there, what their experiences are like, where they stay and how much money they spend to recreate, District Ranger Kim Vogel said.

"We've never gathered this kind of social data before," she said.

The information will be sent to a U.S. Forest Service office in Washington, D.C., to be reviewed and compared to other forests, Vogel said.

The survey will be confidential and no names will be taken.

Federal officials hope the information will help them get an idea of how visitors' experiences in national forests can be improved, as well as understand the economic impact public lands have on adjacent communities.

Vogel said the data will be essential to forest planning and should be useful for local community tourism planning.

"Any entity is welcomed to any of the data we have," she said.

Forest Service technician Paul Blackman said some people will be asked questions about how much money they spent in the local vicinity, primarily on recreation equipment.

Vogel said knowing the financial impact the forest has on a community is important, especially when reviewing permit requests to run recreational businesses on the land.

The Routt National Forest is one of the first places in the nation where the surveying is being done.

Forest Services employees will be in the field across Routt County for about 150 days in the next year trying to collect the information. They'll set up roadside posts at most recreational spots with signs asking people to pull over to be surveyed. Near wilderness areas, they'll be hanging out at trailheads.

The basic survey is expected to take six minutes to complete. Every other person will be asked some additional questions that could stretch the survey time by about five minutes. About one-quarter of the participants will be asked about their spending habits.

"We would sure appreciate folks stopping," Vogel said. "The more information we get from a wide variety of users, the better."

To reach Doug Crowl call 871-4206

or e-mail dcrowl@amigo.net

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