SHERIDAN — With every action is a consequence, and the U.S. Forest Service and other partner agencies know that well. To keep track of results of decisions made in the Cloud Peak Wilderness, groups continue to monitor degradation of the land from human use through rapid campsite monitoring every few years.
The Bighorn National Forest Cloud Peak Wilderness Campsite Surveys should be done every five years, USFS’ Silas Davidson said, but the last survey completed dates back to 2010, and before that, 1996.
The survey, which volunteers and USFS staff now complete via a smartphone application, assesses campsites in heavy-use areas in the Cloud Peak Wilderness to help USFS staff make decisions on regulations and to track the health of the Bighorn National Forest.
July 10 and several times after, Wyoming Wilderness Association partnered with the USFS to help train volunteers for citizen science work through the app, teaching them how to properly assess a campsite through the two applications: Collector and Survey123.
A group of eight volunteers trekked to Sherd Lake on the Buffalo side of the Bighorns, a highly popular area for day hikes and overnight camping, as the trail to the mountain lake totals 1.8 miles one-way.
After receiving classroom training at the USFS office in Buffalo, crews trekked to the popular lake and discovered the ease of reassessing campsites from 2010 assessments. Using satellite technology, assessors turned phones on airplane mode and reassessed campsites, including vegetation type, ground cover disturbance, tree damage, structures, litter, human waste, noxious weeds, user-developed trails and distance from water.
Visitors should all understand the regulations currently in place after filling out the Cloud Peak Wilderness use registration which can be printed and filled out prior to leaving for the adventure at a local U.S. Forest Service office or at the trailhead. The purpose of completing registration before a backpacking trip is for the USFS to obtain accurate wilderness visitor use data and to educate visitors to the regulations in place to protect the wilderness resource for future generations, according to the registration document. The campsite assessments serve as a secondary way to track use at each site and determine if regulations need to be rescinded, added or altered.
The concept is simple and requires little work after initial preparation.
1. Download the Collector and Survey123
2. Log in with the following login information:
3. On the Collector app, download and sync the Bighorn National Forest maps while on WiFi connection, or just download the map applicable to your trip.
4. Head up to the Cloud Peak Wilderness and turn your phone on airplane mode. It will still work
5. Pull up your downloaded map on Collector, locate your site and choose a point to reassess.
6. Work through the document using your best citizen science judgment.
7. Save a draft and, upon returning to cellphone service, send files to the USFS.