A new survey says that almost 140,000 people a year venture into the wilderness areas of the Mount Hood National Forest, about twice as many as previous estimates.
Survey results are not yet public, but were reported in Wednesday's edition of The Oregonian newspaper. The data are part of a U.S. Forest Service effort to measure recreational uses of federal forests and help decide whether more acreage should be set aside as wilderness.
Overall, the Mount Hood National Forest had an estimated 4.1 million visitors during the survey period, which ran from October 2002 to September 2003.
The total number of visitors was about what the Forest Service had estimated. Still, the higher-than-expected number of wilderness visitors has prompted Forest Supervisor Gary Larsen to reassess his wilderness management strategy.
"In the grand scheme of things, that's not a big piece of the 4.1 million," Larsen said of the 137,000 visits to wilderness areas of the forest. "But it's a particularly important piece."
Interviews with 207 Mount Hood wilderness visitors during the 12-month survey period indicated that people still consider Mount Hood trails and primitive areas to be relatively uncrowded.