Frequently Asked Questions

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Visitor Use Management

  • What are visitor use management and visitor capacity?
  • Visitor use management is the proactive and adaptive process for managing characteristics of visitor use and the natural and managerial setting, using a variety of strategies and tools to achieve and maintain desired resource conditions and visitor experiences.

    Visitor capacity, a component of visitor use management, is the maximum amounts and types of visitor use that an area can accommodate while achieving and maintaining desired resource conditions and visitor experiences consistent with the purposes for which the area was established.

    The term “visitor capacity” as used in council products and activities is synonymous with numeric capacity, user capacity, and recreational carrying capacity.

  • What are some examples of visitor use management strategies?
  • The selection of visitor use management strategies is a major component of the Visitor Use Management Framework, and is described in Element 3, Identify Management Strategies.

  • Why is it sometimes necessary to identify visitor capacities and strategies to manage use levels within capacity?
  • There are specific laws that require agencies to address visitor capacity. They are:

    In other circumstances, land management agencies may find identifying visitor capacity and the strategies to manage use levels within capacity to be needed, but they are not mandated by law. In these situations, where desired conditions may not be maintained and/or achieved, and/or thresholds may be exceeded, it may be necessary to address capacity and associated management strategies.

  • How do federal land managers identify visitor capacities and the management strategies to manage use levels within capacity?
  • See the visitor capacity guidebook for details.
  • How are resource conditions and visitor experiences measured and monitored?
  • See the indicators, thresholds, and monitoring guidebook for details.

Background on the Council

  • Why was the council established?
  • The Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Park Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service strive, according to their unique mandates, to maximize benefits for visitors while achieving and maintaining desired resource conditions and visitor experiences. Recent public initiatives, such as America’s Great Outdoors and Healthy Parks Healthy People US, demonstrate a commitment to enhance the public’s connection with the outdoors for purposes of recreation, spiritual renewal, improved health, and high-quality time spent with families and friends. Providing and managing these opportunities is an important part of the missions of these federal agencies. At the same time, these agencies are challenged to strike an appropriate balance between these societal benefits and resource protection and conservation. Managing visitor access and use for recreational benefits and resource protection is inherently complex.

    During the past three decades, these federal agencies have gained substantial experience in meeting these often competing objectives, but challenges remain. Managers continue to struggle with uncertainty about the best approach to balancing evolving visitor uses and access with the agencies’ mandates to protect natural and cultural resources. This uncertainty is exacerbated by inconsistent use of terminology and divergent approaches to managing visitors and recreation on federal lands and waters.

    Leaders of these federal agencies chartered the council in 2011 to enhance best practices, interagency consistency, cost-effectiveness, and the defensibility of decisions related to visitor use management. The council has been given the task of developing consistent interagency guidance for visitor use management, including visitor capacity.

  • Is there only federal representation on the council?
  • Yes. Since the council’s purpose is to improve consistency and create efficiencies in the planning and management of federal lands and waters used by visitors, the membership is drawn from federal agency staff responsible for these duties.

  • What is the relationship of the Interagency Visitor Use Management Council to other similar councils?
  • The America’s Great Outdoors initiative established the Federal Interagency Council on Outdoor Recreation (FICOR) FICOR has since been chartered and an action plan developed in which visitor use management and related issues are identified as a part of their purpose. The council collaborates with the FICOR, advising the FICOR on key outdoor recreation policy and planning issues related to visitor use management.

    The council also closely coordinates with other existing interagency groups, such as the Interagency Wild and Scenic Rivers Coordinating Council, the Interagency Wilderness Policy Council, and the Federal Interagency Council on Trails, regarding visitor use management issues pertinent to these councils. The council strives for close collaboration and coordination with these councils to ensure consistency across agencies in policy guidance and work products.

Future of the Council

Interacting with the Council

  • How can I stay up-to-date on the council’s activities and who should I contact if I have questions?
  • The council expects to issue status reports and periodic updates outlining its proposed work schedule and accomplishments. These and other council activities will be posted on this website. Here you may also view products such as the Visitor Use Management Framework, guidebooks, and position papers. For specific questions, please see the list of council members.

  • How do I raise an issue for the council to consider or resolve?
  • If you have a specific issue that you feel should be addressed by the council, you can contact one of the council members.

  • How do I join the council?
  • If you are an employee of one of the federal agencies represented on the council and would like to be considered for future openings on the council, please contact your agency’s council representatives.

Agencies That Participate on the Council

  • What agencies participate on the council?
  • The Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in the U.S. Department of the Interior; the U.S. Forest Service, in the U.S. Department of Agriculture; the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, in the U.S. Department of Defense; and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, in the U.S. Department of Commerce, are responsible for managing approximately 684 million acres of federally-owned public lands and waters and coastal estuaries.

  • What is the mission of the Bureau of Land Management?
  • The mission of the Bureau of Land Management is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of America’s public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.

  • What is the mission of the Forest Service?
  • The mission of the Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the Nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations.

  • What is the mission of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration?
  • The mission of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration centers on science, service, and stewardship: (i) to understand and predict changes in climate, weather, oceans, and coasts; (ii) to share that knowledge and information with others; and, (iii) to conserve and manage coastal and marine ecosystems and resources.

    The Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is a recent addition to the Interagency Visitor Use Management Council. NOAA’s ocean stewardship mission comprises a variety of place-based management authorities and roles in federal and state waters throughout the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone. These range from direct management of marine protected areas (e.g., National Marine Sanctuaries), to various partnerships with state coastal management agencies on a variety of recreational uses and geographical scales.

  • What is the mission of the National Park Service?
  • The National Park Service preserves unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the national park system for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations. The National Park Service cooperates with partners to extend the benefits of natural and cultural resource conservation and outdoor recreation throughout this country and the world.

  • What is the mission of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers?
  • The mission of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is to deliver vital public and military engineering services; partnering in peace and war to strengthen our Nation’s security, energize the economy and reduce risks from disasters.

  • What is the mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service?
  • The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is to work with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.

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Information last updated
08/08/2017 8:00 am