Frequently Asked Questions

Connecting people with nature and history builds healthier minds and bodies, enhances bonds between family and friends, contributes to the quality of life and resiliency of local communities, and inspires and rejuvenates our spirits. Additionally, experiencing federally managed lands and waters helps visitors develop an understanding and sense of belonging to a real place and, thus, to act as citizen stewards of our collective natural and cultural heritage.

Why Manage Visitor Use?

Every year, people seek out federally managed lands and waters to pursue a growing variety of visitor experiences. As public interest in and use of these lands and waters changes, this nationwide trend requires that all of us—visitors, managers, and citizens—adopt more effective ways to manage visitor use to ensure that these special places, and the benefits they generate, persist for current and future generations. Effective visitor use management helps meet this changing demand and helps federal agencies protect resources and improve visitor experiences. Visitor use management simultaneously supports appropriate public access to these places, while ensuring the long-term viability of the resources and social and managerial conditions that make desired visitor experiences possible.

Proactive visitor use management is more important now than ever before as patterns in outdoor recreation and visitor use are continually changing. The visiting public is becoming more diversified with new interests and needs, oftentimes leading to new and emerging visitor experiences. Different facilities and services are needed to support changes in visitor demographics and spatial and temporal distribution, increasing visitation from travel and tourism providers with an emphasis on international visitors and visitation by larger intergenerational family units. These changes often result in the need to consider social and environmental justice factors, such as race, class, gender, and age, to accommodate shifting visitor expectations. Increasing reliance on technology, coupled with metropolitan populations close to federally managed lands and waters, is also requiring a higher demand for information and quality services from visitors.

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How Does the Interagency Visitor Use Management Council Help?

The Interagency Visitor Use Management Council (the council) is a collaborative forum for federal member land and water agencies created to share and leverage practical, science-based tools for managing recreation on America’s most iconic and valued federal lands and waters. The council is designed to build a common language and institutional knowledge of management techniques, while efficiently sharing tools, training, technical assistance, and best practices.

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What is the Council’s Visitor Use Management Framework?

The Visitor Use Management Framework and associated guidebooks provide a broadly applicable tool kit that agencies can apply to make visitor use management decisions at a variety of scales, ranging from changes in day-to-day operations in a section of a park, to the long-term planning of a regional network of land, aquatic, and marine protected areas. The council’s framework also provides a common language to enable recreation and resource management specialists across all agencies to communicate with one another and the public regarding visitor use management.

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How does the Council’s Work Benefit Resource Managers and Visitors?

The council benefits managers of the nation’s federal lands and waters by providing a collaborative forum and tools for federal agencies to tackle common challenges of sustainable visitor use and recreation. The council’s products, trainings, and outreach make it possible for agencies to facilitate and sustain public access and use of valued, and often vulnerable, land and water resources.

The council’s efforts also directly benefit visitors to federal lands by providing an objective, science-based, consistent, and transparent process for their engagement with agency decisions that affect how, where, and at what intensities we all access and enjoy the natural and cultural treasures of our nation’s lands and waters.

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