What do you think of the Ochoco National Forest?
- Jason Chaney
- Central Oregonian - News
Starting Oct. 1, people spending time on Ochoco National Forest will have the opportunity to provide feedback on their experiences to the U.S. Forest Service.
>USFS will be conducting surveys as a follow up to similar inquiry five years ago
The agency is conducting national forest surveys nationwide in an effort to collect data on recreational use. They plan to survey visitors on the Ochoco and Deschutes national forests as well as the Crooked River National Grasslands.
This marks the first time in five years that the Forest Service has conducted this survey on the Ochoco. They intend to update that information and look at recreational trends over time.
The survey will conclude in about one year.
“It is to get general trends of how the forest is being used and if people are satisfied with the recreation experiences,” said Cathy Lund, a member of the recreation district staff for Ochoco National Forest. “They are used by the Forest Service when developing management plans, and in seeing if we have areas that need more emphasis.”
The information gathered will not only facilitate local forest planning, but will also be used at the state planning level and possibly by Congress.
The Forest Service is conducting the surveys on a voluntary basis as people exit the forest. Lund said they cover a variety of different topics from the cleanliness of campgrounds or condition of roads to the activities visitors enjoyed on the forest.
“It is my understanding that there are several different questionnaires,” she said. “There are short ones and there are longer ones that go into more detail.”
Past surveys by the Forest Service have found that people utilize the Ochoco for a variety of purposes and timeframes.
“On the Ochoco, it is kind of a 50/50 split between day-use and overnight,” said Chuck Frayer, the National Visitor Use Monitoring Program coordinator for the Forest Service’s Northwest region. “(However), starting about this time, with elk season and deer season and all of that, you have groves of folks that are coming in, so there is a tremendous amount of overnight that is happening.”
Frayer stressed that the surveys provide just a snapshot of recreational use, and they are therefore only one of many ways that the Forest Service determines management plans and projects. At the same time, the surveys help answer two critical questions the Forest Service poses when considering new ideas.
“The number one thing we’re asked whenever it comes to budget or to whatever it is, is, ‘How many people are out there?’” he said. “The number two question is, ‘Are they satisfied? Are they having a good recreational experience?’”
At this point, Frayer feels that the voluntary survey program has gained some momentum after a slower start. Because the questions asked people what they were doing, how many people went with them, their age group, and more, people tended to shy away from the survey.
“At first, especially out here (in the Northwest region), it was looked at as Uncle Sam was checking up on you. People were very, very suspicious about that,” he said. “But, over time, we are getting more and more surveys. That tells me that people don’t have a problem with it anymore.”