In 2021, Winter Wildlands Alliance (WWA) and Colorado Mountain Club (CMC), a WWA grassroots group, announced a new tool for tracking and monitoring winter recreation.
Developed by CMC, the Recreation Impact Monitoring System (RIMS) mobile application is a smartphone-based data collection and analysis tool that has been used by trained volunteers since 2019 to collect data on trails, infrastructure, campsites and visitor use, and to share this data directly with land managers. In 2021, WWA was able to help CMC update the RIMS app to also provide for winter recreation monitoring and data collection.
You can download the RIMS app for free by searching “CMC RIMS” in the Google Play or Apple App Store, and learn more about it at https://www.cmc.org/conservation/rims-mobile-app/rims-mobile-app
How does it work?
Using the app, you can record winter recreation user numbers, parking issues, facility assessments, conflicts and violations, and other information about what you are encountering when you are at the trailhead or in the backcountry — along with GPS location, photos and other data necessary to provide a report to the Forest Service.
RIMS users can download basemaps for offline use in any Western state showing topography, land management, and Wilderness boundaries. Maps with best-available Forest Service winter travel management designations and restrictions are also available for download for national forests in California, Colorado, Idaho, and Montana (and will be updated as new designations are made through winter travel planning). Once maps are downloaded, the app can be used in the backcountry where there is no cell service. Reports are saved and uploaded when you return to service.
Where does the data go?
WWA and CMC will share reports with the Forest Service on a regular basis. In addition, most visitor use/facilities assessments are visible on the app for all users, so if you are monitoring a particular area with some frequency you will be able to track issues like parking and plowing. Violation and conflict reports are confidential but will be shared with Forest Service staff (and are more for the purposes of planning, plan implementation and management than for direct enforcement).
By providing a systematic method for volunteers to monitor winter recreation use on public lands, and to report specific issues and conflicts, we hope to help land managers better understand winter recreation use and trends in specific places. This will support our efforts to advocate for thoughtful winter travel planning, for additional Forest Service enforcement capacity in places where persistent Wilderness/non-motorized incursions occur, and investments in winter recreation infrastructure such as trailhead plowing, signage and educational resources, and facilities. This monitoring is also an essential component to implementation of new winter travel plans, such as the recently-completed Stanislaus OSV plan.
To learn more about using RIMS for winter recreation monitoring, check out the video embedded above. Prior to becoming a certified RIMS user, you must take the online tutorial available on the CMC website here.