, Volume 6, Issue 4, pp 329-335

Wilderness permit accuracy: Differences between reported and actual use

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Wilderness permits are valuable tools for recording backcountry use patterns. They provide a valuable basis upon which management decisions are made. Unfortunately, significant inaccuracies in reporting permit data result from noncompliance, transmission errors, and changes in visitor plans. Data from Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks in California show that in 1978, 97 percent of the parties obtained wilderness permits. Changes in visitor plans resulted in an over-reporting of total persons by 8 percent and of visitor nights by 23 percent. The latter was due primarily to shortening of trip length. Over-reporting was greatest when permits were issued well in advance of the trip. Backcountry managers should be aware of possible inaccuracies in permit data and may want to adjust for them under certain circumstances.