Framework & Guidebooks

Visitor Use Management Framework

The purpose of the framework is to provide cohesive guidance for managing visitor use on federally managed lands and waters. The framework is a planning process for visitor use management and can be incorporated into existing agency planning and decision-making processes. It is applicable to virtually all visitor use management situations and conditions on federally managed lands and waters. The framework is applicable across a wide spectrum of situations that vary in spatial extent and complexity from site-specific decisions to large-scale, comprehensive management plans. It also may be used across multiple, tiered planning efforts.

In the framework guidance, great effort is taken to describe how to flexibly apply the framework. Of particular importance is the notion of a sliding scale of analysis, whereby the investment of time, money, and other resources in analysis is commensurate with the complexity of the situation and the consequences of the decision. The framework elements are:

  • Build the Foundation–Understand why the project is needed, and develop the project approach.
  • Define Visitor Use Management Direction–Describe the conditions to be achieved or maintained and how conditions will be tracked over time.
  • Identify Management Strategies–Identify strategies to manage visitor use to achieve or maintain desired conditions.
  • Implement, Monitor, Evaluate, and Adjust–Implement management strategies and actions, and adjust based on monitoring and evaluation.

Please read the framework:

Monitoring Guidebook

The Monitoring Guidebook, in combination with the council’s Visitor Use Management Framework, provides specific guidance for developing and implementing a monitoring strategy related to visitor use that can be incorporated into existing agency planning and decision-making processes. Monitoring is an essential part of managing visitor use, as it provides feedback for managers to evaluate the effectiveness of management actions in achieving and maintaining desired conditions. Monitoring is the process of routinely and systematically gathering information or making observations to assess the status of specific resource conditions and visitor experiences. This monitoring guidebook is intended to (1) help managers select a focused set of indicators and establish triggers, thresholds, and objectives that are relevant, cost effective, and tied to achieving and maintaining desired conditions; (2) develop a monitoring strategy to routinely and systematically collect data to assess any changes in conditions over time; and (3) use the data collected to assess whether changes in management actions are needed.

The Monitoring Guidebook concludes with examples of indicators, thresholds, triggers, and objectives for a variety of resources and settings to show how monitoring information is used to inform management actions.

Please read the guidebook:

As noted in appendix C of the Monitoring Guidebook, a blank worksheet is provided below to record interdisciplinary team conversations or as an interactive tool for the selection of indicators and establishment of thresholds.

Please see the worksheet:

Visitor Capacity Guidebook

The Visitor Capacity Guidebook, in combination with the council’s Visitor Use Management Framework, provides managers with processes and tools to collaboratively develop long-term strategies to manage the amounts and types of visitor use to achieve desired conditions and improve access, connect visitors to key experiences, and protect resources. Visitor capacity is a component of visitor use management and is defined as the maximum amounts and types of visitor use that an area can accommodate while achieving and maintaining desired resource conditions and visitor experiences that are consistent with the purposes for which the area was established. The guidebook is not agency policy, but rather represents recommendations developed by the council for consistent best practices based on the current state of knowledge for visitor use management.

The guidebook concludes with four theoretical case studies to further demonstrate the visitor capacity guidelines in action. The case studies represent a range of examples for identifying and implementing visitor capacity.

Please read the guidebook:

Contributed Papers

Relationship between the Amounts and Types of Visitor Use and Impacts

In addition to the framework and related guidebooks, three contributed papers on the relationship between the amounts and types of visitor use and environmental, social, and wildlife impacts are available below. These papers were prepared by experts in the field, David N. Cole (Aldo Leopold Wilderness Research Institute), Stewart Allen (Bureau of Land Management), and Jeffrey L. Marion (U.S. Geological Survey), and serve as an important resource for project teams considering best available knowledge to inform visitor use management.

Please read the contributed papers:

Overview of the Council and the Uses of Social Science in its Implementation in the National Park Service

This paper provides an overview of visitor use management within the National Park Service and describes the use of the framework and the associated role and applicability of social science. Social science is a particularly important contribution to informed and legally defensible decision making for managing visitor use. Proactively managing visitor use supports the ability of the National Park Service to encourage access, improve visitor experiences, and protect resources. To guide its work in visitor use management, the National Park Service is actively using the framework.

Please read the white paper: Overview of the Interagency Visitor Use Management Framework and the Uses of Social Science in its Implementation in the National Park Service by Kerri Cahill, Rachel Collins, Susan McPartland, Aleksandra Pitt, and Rose Verbos.

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Information last updated
10/0/2019 10:00 AM