PORTLAND, Maine – Census workers are using snowmobiles, airplanes, all-terrain vehicles – even lobster boats – to visit the most far-flung, hidden-away dwellings when counting the nation’s populace.
Hand-delivering 2010 census questionnaires in the bush of Alaska, Maine’s North Woods and other isolated regions isn’t as simple as strolling up a front walk. To get to the more remote homes, census workers might fly over mountains or onto far-removed islands, four-wheel it through forests, and contend with snow, bone-chilling temperatures and wildlife on the move.
In Maine, census workers will begin delivering forms this week by whatever means it takes – ATV, snowmobile, cross-country skis or snowshoes – to get to those hard-to-get-to places.
“You don’t know what you’re going to find,” said Danielle Forino, who will use her ATV to get to hunting, fishing and logging camps in the wilds of far northern Maine. “And I definitely anticipate coming across a lot of wildlife; the bears are coming out so we have that to look forward to. And I’m not sure if the people will want to be bothered, but hopefully they’ll be cooperative.”
One woman rode horseback to get to homes for the 2000 census, said Rick Theriault, manager of the Census Bureau’s Bangor office for this year’s census. In Alaska, dog sleds are used.
“We do whatever it takes to get the job done,” Theriault said.
In all, 10-question census forms are being delivered to 134 million residences in the U.S. and Puerto Rico.
Census forms were mailed last week to 90 percent of the homes, about 120 million of them. Census workers are visiting the other 10 percent in person to deliver the forms in areas that don’t have regular mail service or “city-style” addresses to receive mail.
But only two places – much of Alaska and Maine’s North Woods – have been designated by the Census Bureau as requiring special travel arrangements to reach remote locations.
Those rural and sparsely populated areas, which contain less than 1 percent of all U.S. households, have irregular mail service and often can’t be reached by car.
Those people, like everybody else, still have to be counted.
Nationwide, about 1 in 10 people may not participate in the population count, with many saying they see little personal benefit from the government survey or have concerns that it may be intrusive, according to a Pew Research Center poll released last week.
Theriault, though, remains optimistic.
“A lot of these ‘survivalists’ and stuff are constitutionalists,” he said. “The census is outlined in the Constitution and most people – not all, but most – want to participate for that reason.”