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Shawnee National Forest conducting visitor surveys

When visiting Shawnee National Forest, you may notice Forest Service employees wearing bright orange vests near signs that say “Survey Site – Please stop.”

“We kicked off visitor surveys this month. These surveys are a way for us to understand how people feel about their visits to national forests,” said Steve Harris, Recreation and Lands Program Manager.

The Forest Service conducts the surveys on a five-year-rotation to understand recreation trends over time. Just like the postman, survey takers may be out in adverse weather conditions during the next year.

Each visitor survey gathers basic visitor information, and responses are confidential. The basic interview lasts about 10 minutes and every other visitor is asked a few additional questions, which may take an additional five minutes.

The questions include where visitors recreated on the forest, how many people they traveled with, how long they were on the forest, what other recreation sites they visited while on the forest, and how satisfied they were with the facilities and services provided. About a third of the visitors will be asked to complete a confidential survey on recreation spending during their trip.

The information is useful for forest planning and local community tourism planning. Not only does it provide an estimate of how many people recreate on federal lands, it gathers important information about their experience while here. It also is one way for Southern Illinois to estimate how tourism effects the local economy.

Results from the study are public information and will be used in local forest planning, at the state planning level and also by Congress. The more that is known about forest visitors, especially their satisfaction and desires, the better Shawnee National Forest can provide for their needs. For more information about the program visit