Wallowa-Whitman wants to know: What did you do in the woods?

Written by ED MERRIMAN, Baker City Herald October 02, 2008 12:00 am

Forest started a year-long survey of recreational visitors on Wednesday


A twelve-month survey of visitors to the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest began Wednesday with workers gathering information about what forest users enjoy doing, where they like to go, and how satisfied they were while recreating on the forest.

During hunting seasons this fall, survey takers will set up orange cones along roads to encourage hunters to pull over and spend a few minutes answering questions, said Dan Ermovick, the Wallowa-Whitman’s recreation manager.

“The survey is voluntary and confidential,” Ermovick said.

He said the survey covers four types of recreational uses, including day use sites (picnicking and sightseeing), overnight sites, general forest sites (including hunting and fishing) and wilderness trail exit points.

With deer hunting season opening Saturday, Ermovick said survey takers hired by the University of West Virginia will be conducting survey interviews at popular hunting areas.

He said the university hires local residents to conduct the interviews and fill out the survey forms.

Ermovick said survey takers will ask people whether they were camping, fishing, hunting, birdwatching, hiking, picnicking or sightseeing, how they enjoyed their stay, whether restrooms were clean, how much money they spent and other questions.

“It takes about 10 minutes,” Ermovick said.

“Our fiscal year starts October first and we will gather information for an entire year (through Sept. 30, 2009) to get information on uses during every season, including winter uses at campgrounds, and about skiers and tram users,” Ermovick said.

“We will go into the Hells Canyon Recreation Area and across the Snake River into Idaho to survey people about recreational uses in that area as well,” Ermovick said.

Survey results will help Wallowa-Whitman officials plan for recreation on the forest, said Judy Wing, public affairs officer for the Wallowa-Whitman.

The survey will provide additional information about forest visitation as an integral part of the local tourism package offered by communities, Wing said.

Similar surveys also started Wednesday on the neighboring Umatilla and Malheur National Forests under contracts with the University of West Virginia, which just finished surveying users of the Deschutes National Forest, Ermovick said.

He said information gathered through the surveys will be used to update previous surveys on an ongoing survey process begun several years ago involving every national forest in the country. In 2003-2004, the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest completed a baseline survey.

“We are now returning five years later to update the information previously gathered as well as to look at recreation trends over time,” Ermovick said. “This survey is an important piece in better understanding our recreational visitors.”

Survey information will also be used to help guide multiple-use forest management planning.

Wing said forest recreation is an integral part of the local tourism industry, and economic and recreation-use information can be valuable for private enterprises and local communities, as well as for local recreation managers.

More information about the survey is available at http://www.fs.fed.us/recreation/programs/nvum/