CASS LAKE, Minn. -- The Chippewa National Forest has started a yearlong series of voluntary visitor surveys to learn more about recreation use on the forest.

Posted signs will notify visitors that a survey is in progress, and visitors may be asked to respond to a short series of questions about their experience in and around the forest. which is about 15 miles east of Bemidji.

The surveys are part of a National Visitor Use Monitoring program, which provides science-based estimates of the volume and characteristics of recreation visitation to the National Forest System, as well as the benefits recreation brings to the American public, a release said.

"The valuable information gathered will be used to help guide national forest decisions for managing recreation resources to best meet the needs of visitors while maintaining the quality of the natural environment," Sean Dunham, heritage and recreation program manager of the Chippewa National Forest, said in the release.

The basic interview lasts around eight minutes, and about half of the interviews include additional questions lasting about five additional minutes.

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Questions include where the visitor recreated in the forest, how many people they traveled with, how long they were in the forest, what other recreation sites they visited while in the forest and how satisfied they were with the facilities and services provided.

About a third of visitors will be asked to complete a confidential survey on recreation spending during their trip.

All responses to the visitor use survey are voluntary and completely confidential. No names are collected as part of the survey.

In response to COVID-19, interviewers and survey participants must practice social distancing or wear face coverings. Interviewers will use a tablet to record oral responses and may supply disposable masks as needed, when social distancing cannot be observed.

The National Visitor Use Monitoring program samples each forest every five years. The Chippewa National Forest last conducted a program survey in 2016.

More information about the program is available at go.usa.gov/xGerS.