University of Idaho CESU Assistance Agreement
Background & Benefits
The agreement is arranged such that it provides direct benefits to the University, the public, and the BLM. Through this assistance agreement, UI is further developing its academic program in social science research; providing students with hands-on opportunities to work in this field and allowing them to apply classroom concepts in a practical, real-world setting; and engaging the faculty in a practical application of their research and other scientific activities.
Through this agreement, the public have a dedicated vehicle through which they can offer information and insight regarding their use of and experience at BLM recreation sites, as well as their satisfaction with amenities, services, and staff. Throughout this process, the public using BLM recreation sites are able to provide input on their experience and satisfaction, and on how BLM lands may be enhanced and managed. This effort directly supports the tenants identified in the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA). In time, it is envisioned that the general public will have electronic access to and use of the social science data analysis and reports generated by the UI regarding BLM-managed recreation sites.
This agreement allows BLM the opportunity to engage in a long-term social science research and visitor use monitoring program and protocol that directly benefits the public and the university, and provides some indirect benefit to BLM field staff. Similar to the access the public has, BLM managers will have the opportunity to utilize the social science research reports and information UI generates to make more informed land management decisions. Equipped with this information, managers can also focus limited resources on enhancements and amenities that better support the public’s needs and wants – providing a direct benefit to the public.
Annually, each of the twelve BLM State Offices select two sites in their respective area of jurisdiction to participate in the visitor satisfaction survey. The selected sites provide background information, including a two-month window when they will be able to collect data and a site contact with whom the UI and BLM project coordinators will work.
Approximately two weeks prior to the self-identified start date, sites receive a package of materials from UI. The package contains blank surveys, data collection protocols and a surveyor script, tracking forms, locked drop boxes, and pre-paid shipping slips. The detailed protocols and script provided in the package are geared to aid BLM staff in collecting the data in a consistent and scientifically valid manner.
Once the two month collection window concludes, BLM staff ship all completed surveys (in locked drop boxes) back to UI for processing, analysis and report generation. Starting in 2006, completed surveys from each site were processed individually rather than in a batch with all sites, which means that reports will be generated and available for review in a relatively short time period.
USDA Forest Service National Visitor Use Monitoring Program Test Pilot
In an effort to identify a uniform, agency-wide program to collect scientifically-defensible visitor use estimates, the BLM entered into an Interagency Agreement with the USDA Forest Service (FS). The program provides a pilot test of the Forest Service National Visitor Use Monitoring (NVUM) program at three BLM Field Offices (Moab, UT, Roseburg, OR, Dolores, CO) to determine the viability of this comprehensive visitor use methodology for possible long-term, BLM-wide application.
Phase 1: Prework. The prework phase of the project was completed in Fiscal Year 2005 (FY 05). The prework required key individuals from the pilot BLM Field Offices to attend training on the FS NVUM database. The FS provided database training to BLM staff who then completed the stratified NVUM database (adjusted for BLM) which included entering all of the pilot study Field Office visitor sites, all visitor exit points from BLM land, and annual use levels at these points. This prework was accomplished in the summer of FY 05 so the FS could produce a sampling plan for the BLM Field Offices for FY 06. After the sampling plan was established, the FS hosted a second training for the three pilot BLM Field Offices on the NVUM interviewing and sampling protocol.
Phase 2: Sampling. The sampling phase was completed in FY 06. This phase involved the three pilot BLM Field Offices conducting the on-the-ground use samples and visitor interviews. The FS provided initial oversight, and the sampling took place. BLM adhered to the NVUM methodology provided by the FS. During FY 07 the FS will clean and process the raw data collected by the pilot offices and generate reports.
Phase 3: Evaluation. BLM is currently reviewing options available for evaluating the viability of NVUM for BLM-wide adaptation and application. The evaluation phase of the project is expected to be completed during FY 07.
It is critical that the BLM has a standard consistent bureau-wide, scientifically-defensible method for visitor monitoring. Implementing this pilot program allows BLM to evaluate, adapt, and modify (as needed) the FS NVUM system, providing BLM with valid and reliable baseline data, trend analysis, demand assessment, and forecasting. Such visitor monitoring information enables BLM to incorporate statistically valid visitor use monitoring information into planning and management decisions as well as long-term monitoring assessment. The FS NVUM system provides BLM with accurate data with high confidence levels for reporting to Congress and constituents, thereby building credibility and establishing legal protection in decision-making. This program would also provide input for estimating regional socio-economic impacts associated with BLM visitor use. The program would provide insight into the recreation settings and recreation experiences that BLM visitors want on the public lands. Finally, by working with the FS, BLM can achieve significant savings in research and development costs while also being able to have comparable data with a sister agency. This inter-agency, inter-department effort represents a major achievement between the two Departments and sister agencies.