Camper Trends Change at Shoshone National Forest
While public satisfaction with the Wyoming's Shoshone National Forest remains high, forest officials say that evolving user trends may require a shift in how parts of the forest are managed, the Billings Gazette reported.
Officials with the Shoshone National Forest spent three days with cooperating county and state officials last week reviewing the agency’s goals in writing a new plan to manage the forest, its resources and wildlife.
The Shoshone’s forest plan was last approved in 1986 and has been amended 14 times over the years. The agency is drafting a more modern plan and hopes to have it available for public review by next year.
Loren Poppert, recreation planner for the Shoshone, said the forest recorded about 646,000 visits in 2009, a figure that has remained relatively stable over the last decade.
However, he said, people are using the forest differently than they did in past years. The agency will address some of the trends in its new management plan.
“We collected different data on what people are doing out on the forest,” Poppert said. “We’ve seen a big trend away from the use of developed campgrounds. We think one of the main reasons is the differences in the technology of camping equipment.”
The number of visitors using developed campgrounds has fallen since 1986, dropping from roughly 34% to 14%. Over the same time, those looking for dispersed camping opportunities increased from 52% to 83%.
Data collected in 2009 also showed a high level of visitor satisfaction in the forest. Around 76% of forest users said they were very satisfied with their experience, while less than 3% expressed some level of dissatisfaction.
“This forest has traditionally been a backcountry forest,” Poppert said. “When we get into the needs for change, the trend data will provide significant information on how we’re going to adjust to those trends.”
While dispersed camping has increased since 1986, wilderness visitors have decreased from 14% to 3%. Of those who used the wilderness, however, 77% expressed satisfaction with their visit, while 86% had a strong perception of wilderness safety.
The three-day talks, held last week at the Park County Library in Cody, covered a range of issues, including recreational trends, special areas, vegetation, minerals, livestock grazing and wildlife.
The talks were mostly about the planning process and will help officials continue to shape the agency’s new plan.
“Some of the feedback we got will help us adjust what we’ll be focusing on in the plan,” said Carrie Christman, forest planner. “We felt the meetings were successful. It helped us get a better handle on where we are in the process.”