The project will provide a standardized process and develop a managers’ guide for administering surveys to recreationists. Not only will it explain how to gather data but how to analyze and incorporate it into planning to help ensure recreation management is consistent with the desires of the public.
SNRE Associate Professor Peter Fix, who has been conducting research for the BLM for the past nine years, heads up the project, which involves researchers from Colorado and Arizona who have worked extensively with the BLM in the southwest U.S. The research team is compiling visitor surveys and focus group protocols from prior research related to BLM-managed lands. After reviewing, they will develop a visitor survey and focus group protocol to be administered as part of the BLM’s national recreation planning strategy. After obtaining the Office of Management and Budget stamp of approval, BLM can use it at public land recreation areas. The survey and manages’ guide link to the recently released BLM Handbook 8320-1 Planning for Recreation and Visitor Services.
That handbook instructs the BLM to gather information related to outcomes recreational visitor desire and their preferences for management prior to developing a resource management plan. The survey and managers’ guide are expected to be completed by January 2016. In the three years after completion, the BLM anticipates the survey could be administered at 108 sites across the 12 states in which they manage land.
“If BLM managers are writing a resource management plan with a recreation component, they can use these tools,” Fix said. “It will give consistency in data collection.”
The manual will provide BLM managers the ability to do these tasks in-house and compare data across sites. “They can look for patterns and trends,” Fix said. “They’ll be able to understand the outcomes of the recreation that takes place on the land.”
Field staff without a lot of survey research experience should be able to use the new tool, Fix said. “If field staff can gather data and incorporate it into the planning process, it will be a successful project,” he said.
The current research not only builds on outcomes focused management studies conducted by UAF and other researchers, but will institutionalize that knowledge into BLM planning at the national level. The ultimate goal is to better understand the relationship between visitors, community service delivery networks and BLM lands so that recreation opportunities are maximized.