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Recreation Site Monitoring Toolbox

This toolbox provides an overview of recreation site monitoring in wilderness areas. It features the FS Wilderness Stewardship Performance and FS Rapid Assessment protocols, but it includes examples of monitoring programs, protocols, and references for all agencies. 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: 9/26/17.
  1. Introduction
    The Wilderness Act does not specifically mention recreation sites 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. Recreation site monitoring and the necessary management of recreation sites help ensure that opportunities for wilderness experiences are preserved while adverse impacts to the biophysical components of the wilderness resource as well as wilderness experiences themselves are minimized.

    Recreation site monitoring, most often applied to campsites, is the systematic collection and evaluation of site 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 help managers prioritize wilderness ranger assignments and project work. The primary purpose of recreation site monitoring in wilderness is to provide essential information for identifying and minimizing the biophysical and social impacts of these sites.
    1. Recreation Site Monitoring Programs and Systems
    2. Impact Indicators and Methodologies
  2. Policy
    1. FS
      1. FSM 2323. 11-14
      2. Wilderness Stewardship Desk Guide
  3. Wilderness Stewardship Performance
    1. The Recreation Sites Element in Wilderness Stewardship Performance
    2. Guidebook to Recreation Site Inventories
    3. National Minimum Recreation Site Monitoring Protocol
    4. Recreation Site Monitoring - Field Techniques and Forms
  4. Guidelines
    1. Condition Class Ratings for Eastern Wilderness
    2. Condition Class Ratings for Western Wilderness
    3. Examples of Site Boundaries, Vegetation Cover, Soil Exposure, Tree Damage, Root Exposure
    4. Frissell Conditions Class descriptions
    5. Fuelwood Monitoring Form and Instructions Example
  5. Examples of Recreation Site Monitoring Programs
    1. Bob Marshall Campsite Inventory Form - Long
    2. Campsite Inventory Form
    3. Cloud Peak Wilderness
      1. Campsite Inventory Form
      2. Fuelwood Inventory Form
    4. Daniel Boone NF
      1. Campsite Monitoring Manual
      2. User Trail Census Manual
    5. Dixie NF
      1. Wilderness Campsite Monitoring Manual
      2. Ashdown Gorge Wild Campsite Inventory Spreadsheet
      3. Monitoring Data Dictionary for Trimble GPS, Note: Once extracted, open ddf file using Pathfinder Office
    6. Eagle Cap Wilderness
      1. ArcPad Users Guide
      2. Campsite Monitoring Instructions
      3. Campsite Inventory Form - Short
      4. Instructions for Campsite Inventory Form
    7. FS Alaska Campsite Definitions and Protocols
    8. FS Region 2 Rapid Assessment
      1. Overview
        Rocky Mountain Region (R2) Rapid Assessments - 2009 & 2011

        Region 2 of the Forest Service selected Element 6, Recreation Site Monitoring, as the 10YWSC emphasis item for 2009. Using the term Rapid Assessment the region was able to build a coalition of partners that successfully competed for a National Forest Foundation (NFF) grant to help accomplish the work.

        The partners will contribute their own funds, labor, and time to train workers and conduct campsite inventories in many of the region’s wilderness areas. A Rapid Assessment Team (RAT) made up of two Forest Service staff and one Colorado State University graduate student (Tyson Cross) will work with local wilderness rangers in other areas to complete the inventory. Tyson Cross is providing GIS maps of likely campsite locations for each wilderness to be surveyed as part of his graduate work.

        Region 2 was awarded additional funds "off the top" from the Washington Office to continue with Rapid Assessments in 2011. A second RAT was assembled to complete this work under the leadership of Steve Sunday.

        More information on R2's Rapid Assessment program can be obtained from Ralph Swain, Regional Wilderness Program Manager, 303-275-5058,
      2. NFF Grant Proposal
      3. Field Budget
      4. Inventory Form
      5. Inventory Protocol
      6. Job Hazard Analysis
      7. Gear List
      8. Cheat Sheet
      9. Rapid Assessment Team Techniques
    9. Glacier NP Backcountry Campground Evaluations
    10. Rocky Mountain National Park
      1. Site Inventory Form
      2. Undesignated Site Inventory Form
    11. San Juan NF
      1. Monitoring Forms for Campsites, Meadow Health, Streambank Trampling
      2. Site Monitoring Instruction Manual
      3. Results Booklet Instructions
    12. Sawtooth National Recreation Area Campsite Monitoring Protocol
    13. Sierra and Inyo NFs
      1. Procedures for Campsite Inventory
      2. Campsite Inventory Form
      3. Campsite Database instructions
      4. Campsite Database
  6. References
    1. Other Relevant Toolboxes
      1. Monitoring Plan Toolbox
    2. Selected Aldo Leopold Wilderness Research Institute Publications:
      1. Cole, D. N. 1989. Wilderness Campsite Monitoring Methods: A Sourcebook. Gen. Tech. Rpt. INT-259. Ogden UT: USDA Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station 60p.
      2. Cole, D. N. 1989. Area of Vegetation Loss: A New Index of Campsite Impact. Res. Note INT-389. Ogden, UT: USDA Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station 51p.
    3. Hall, T. E. and Farrell, T. A. 2001. Fuelwood Depletion at Wilderness Campsites: Extent and Potential Ecosystem Significance. Ecosystem Conservation, 28(3):241-247.
    4. Developing a Natural Resource Inventory and Monitoring Program for Visitor Impacts on Recreation Sites: A Procedural Manual, Marion, Jeffrey, Natural resources Report NPS/NRVT/NRR-91/06, October 1991
      1. Appendix and References