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    Long-term occupancy by homeless individuals in U.S. national forests and grasslands results in persistent management challenges and resource concerns. Management challenges associated with non-recreational campers (homeless long-term occupants) include: maintaining sanitary conditions, public safety, vandalism, and conflict with other forest visitors. These management challenges may already be a substantial concern for district rangers and law enforcement officers (LEOs) in many parts of the U.S. This exploratory study compares the social impacts of various types of non-recreational campers across different forest types in the U.S. In this paper, we compare the prevalence, social impacts, and types of criminal behavior associated with non-recreational campers, along a rural to urban forest continuum. ANOVA analysis reveals that transient retirees are most frequently encountered by law enforcement, with no differences apparent among forest types. Teens and runaways were least often encountered, but this group demonstrated a significant difference in frequency of encounters between rural and urban locations. In terms of conflict, LEOs reported that Forest Service staff are the group most frequently experiencing conflict with non-recreational campers, with no significant differences found among the forest types. With respect to unlawful behavior among the homeless on national forest lands, LEOs reported having to respond to stay violations most often, with no differences found among different forest area types. This paper considers these outcomes and the management challenges they represent.

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    • Visit PNW's Publication Request Page to request a hard copy of this publication.
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    • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.


    Baur, Joshua W.R.; Cerveny, Lee. 2019. Social impacts of homelessness and long-term occupancy on national forests and grasslands: A national study of U.S. Forest Service law enforcement officers. Landscape and Urban Planning. 184: 69-77.


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    US Forest Service, homelessness, social impacts, national forests, visitor impacts, crime.

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