Recreation Site Monitoring

The Recreation Site Monitoring toolbox includes examples of monitoring programs, protocols, and references for all agencies. Contact us to suggest new materials for inclusion.


The Wilderness Act does not specifically mention recreation sites or monitoring but it does indicate that wilderness areas are "...for the use and enjoyment of the American people..." and they offer "...outstanding opportunities for solitude or a primitive and unconfined type of recreation..." in settings where wilderness character is preserved and natural conditions protected. Recreation site monitoring and the necessary management of recreation sites help ensure that opportunities for wilderness experiences are preserved while adverse impacts to the biophysical components of the wilderness resource as well as wilderness experiences themselves are minimized. Additional and supplemental information can be found in the Visitor Use Management Toolbox.

Recreation site monitoring, most often applied to campsites, is the systematic collection and evaluation of site inventory and condition data to establish a baseline and/or identify changes and trends over time. This information is used for visitor use management and resource protection and help managers prioritize wilderness ranger assignments and project work. The primary purpose of recreation site monitoring in wilderness is to provide essential information for identifying and minimizing the biophysical and social impacts of these sites.



  • The NPS has no specific policy with regards to recreation site monitoring. However, it will be contained in a park specific Wilderness Stewardship Plan.
  • NPS Management Policies that apply to recreation are in Chapters 6 and 8. Specifically:
    • Trails
    • Shelters and Campsites
    • 6.4.3/ Recreational Use Management
    • 8.2.2 Recreational Activities

Training Resources


Other Relevant Toolboxes

Selected aldo Leopold Wilderness Research Institute Publications

Hall, T. E. and Farrell, T. A. 2001. Fuelwood Depletion at Wilderness Campsites: Extent and Potential Ecosystem Significance. Ecosystem Conservation, 28(3):241-247.

Developing a Natural Resource Inventory and Monitoring Program for Visitor Impacts on Recreation Sites: A Procedural Manual

Marion, Jeffrey, Natural resources Report NPS/NRVT/NRR-91/06, October 1991