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Data Series 685

National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Survey Results: 2010/2011

By Natalie R. Sexton, Alia M. Dietsch, Andrew W. Don Carlos, Holly M. Miller, Lynne M. Koontz, and Adam N. Solomon


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) collaborated with the U.S. Geological Survey to conduct a national survey of visitors regarding their experiences on national wildlife refuges. The survey was conducted to better understand visitor needs and experiences and to design programs and facilities that respond to those needs. The survey results will inform Service performance planning, budget, and communications goals. Results will also inform Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCPs), Visitor Services, and Transportation Planning processes.

The survey was conducted on 53 refuges across the National Wildlife Refuge System (Refuge System) to better understand visitor needs and experiences and to design programs and facilities that respond to those needs. A total of 14,832 visitors agreed to participate in the survey between July 2010 and November 2011. In all, 10,233 visitors completed the survey for a 71% response rate. This report provides a summary of visitor and trip characteristics; visitor opinions about refuges and their offerings; and visitor opinions about alternative transportation and climate change, two Refuge System topics of interest.

The Refuge System, established in 1903 and managed by the Service, is the leading network of protected lands and waters in the world dedicated to the conservation of fish, wildlife and their habitats. There are 556 National Wildlife Refuges and 38 wetland management districts nationwide, encompassing more than 150 million acres. The Refuge System attracts more than 45 million visitors annually, including 25 million people per year to observe and photograph wildlife, over 9 million to hunt and fish, and more than 10 million to participate in educational and interpretation programs. Understanding visitors and characterizing their experiences on national wildlife refuges are critical elements of managing these lands and meeting the goals of the Refuge System.

These combined results are based on surveying at 53 participating refuges during 2010/2011 and contain the following information:
Synopsis: Brief summary of the survey results.
Introduction: An overview of the Refuge System and the goals of the national surveying effort.
Methods: The procedures for the national surveying effort, including selecting refuges, developing the survey instrument, contacting visitors, and guidance for interpreting the results.
Survey Results: Key findings from the survey, including:
   o Visitor and trip characteristics
   o Visitors opinions about refuges
   o Visitor opinions about alternative transportation
   o Visitor opinions about climate change

Individual results for each of the 53 participating refuges are available at as part of USGS Data Series 643.
Individual results for an additional 25 refuges participating in the 2012 survey are available at as part of USGS Data Series 754.

First posted May 15, 2012

For additional information contact:
Alia Dietsch, USGS Fort Collins Science Center
2150 Centre Ave., Bldg. C
Fort Collins, CO 80526-8118

Part or all of this report is presented in Portable Document Format (PDF); the latest version of Adobe Reader or similar software is required to view it. Download the latest version of Adobe Reader, free of charge.

Suggested citation:

Sexton, N.R., Dietsch, A.M., Don Carlos, A.W., Miller, H.M., Koontz, L.M., and Solomon, A.N., 2012, National wildlife refuge visitor survey results—2010/2011: U.S. Geological Survey Data Series 685.






Survey Results



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