WASHINGTON — New data shows more people than ever visited national forests and grasslands last year, according to a Forest Service report.

National forests and grasslands received 168 million visits in 2020 — an increase of 18 million when compared to 2019.

The Forest Service, working closely with partners, was able to keep more than 80 percent of recreation sites open to visitors during the pandemic, while maintaining a focus on visitor and staff safety. The report, compiled by the Forest Service’s National Visitor Use Monitoring program, shows the steepest increase in visits happened between May and October of last year. Dispersed recreation sites and wilderness areas saw the most significant increases, with an estimated 25 percent increase in visitation overall. Visits to those areas surged even higher in the summer months when compared to 2019.

The data also shows that visitors enjoyed their experience, with 95 percent of visitors reporting being satisfied or very satisfied with their visit.

“We’re honored to have helped so many people safely find respite and relief during the pandemic,” said Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen. “Our national forests and grasslands offer some of the most readily available and valuable outdoor recreation settings in the country. As we enter the summer months this year, we look forward to providing positive experiences on our national forests and grasslands, and working with partners to support safe and equitable access to the outdoors.”

Completed in five-year cycles, the National Visitor Use Monitoring results give the Forest Service the information they need to best manage recreation to meet visitor demands while continuing the care for the long-term health and productivity of America’s national forests and grasslands. Results in this report reflect the most recent field data on each national forest and include fiscal years 2016 through 2020.

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