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Trail Impact Monitoring Toolbox

This toolbox provides an overview of trail impact monitoring in wilderness areas. It includes agency policy, definitions, and features a trail impact monitoring program development process along with training resources, and references for more information. In addition to the resources provided here, you may also be able to obtain advice and recommendations through discussion on Wilderness Connect. Date of last update: 12/7/16.
  1. Introduction
    The Wilderness Act does not specifically mention trails or monitoring but it does indicate that wilderness areas are "...for the use and enjoyment of the American people..." and they offer "...outstanding opportunities for solitude or a primitive and unconfined type of recreation..." in settings where wilderness character is preserved and natural conditions protected. Trail impact monitoring and the necessary management of trail systems help ensure that opportunities for wilderness experiences are preserved while adverse impacts to the biophysical components of the wilderness resource are minimized.

    Trail impact monitoring is the systematic collection and evaluation of trail inventory and condition data to establish a baseline and/or identify changes and trends over time. This information is used for visitor use management and resource protection and helps managers prioritize trail maintenance and construction needs. The primary purpose of trail impact monitoring in wilderness is to provide essential information for identifying and minimizing the biophysical impacts of both user-created (social) and designated trails.
  2. Agency Policy
    1. FS
  3. Trail Impact Monitoring Program Development
    1. Process
    2. Monitoring Methods
    3. Advantages and Disadvantages of Monitoring Methods
    4. Matching Trail Condition Indicators to Methods and Measures
  4. Training Resources
    1. Visitor Use Management: Monitoring Visitor Impacts and Use E-course
      An on-line training course that contains modules on Monitoring Plan Development and Trail Impact Monitoring
  5. General Plan Examples
    1. Daniel Boone NF Trail Monitoring Manual
  6. Resources
    1. Other Relevant Toolboxes
      1. Monitoring Plan Toolbox
    2. FS Infra Trails Required & Recommended Data Work 2007
    3. FS Trail Assessment & Condition Surveys User Guide 2009
    4. FS Minimum Protocol for Social Trail Monitoring in Wilderness
  7. References
    1. Marion, J. L. and Y. F. Leung. 2001. Trail Resource Impacts and An Examination of Alternative Assessment Techniques. Journal of Park and Recreation Administration, 19(3): 17-37.
    2. Marion, J. L., Wimpey, J. F. and L. O. Park. 2011. The science of trail surveys: Recreation ecology provides new tools for managing wilderness trails. Park Science, 28(3): 60-64.
    3. Wimpey, J. and Marion, J. L. 2011. Formal and Informal Trail Monitoring Protocols and Baseline Conditions: Great Falls Park and Potomac Gorge. Research Report. USDI, U.S. Geological Survey.