Paths More Traveled

Predicting Future Recreation Pressures on America’s National Forests and Grasslands

This report, a publication of the Forests on the Edge project of the Forest Service’s State and Private Forestry Deputy Area, examines the growth in population within 50 and 100 miles of national forests and grasslands. To understand how recreation pressure might increase in the future, the report also estimates future growth in recreation visits to NFS lands by local residents.

by USDA Forest Service


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Populations near many national forests and grasslands are rising and are outpac­ing growth elsewhere in the United States. We used National Visitor Use Monitoring (NVUM) data and U.S. census data to examine growth in population and locally based recreation visits within 50 and 100 miles of National Forest System (NFS) boundaries. From 1990 to 2010, the popu­lation living within 50 miles of NFS lands increased by 36 percent, from about 112 million to 153 million people; that popu­lation is expected to increase in the future. Recreation visits from local residents can be expected to increase by 12 million new visits per year, from 83 million in 2010 to about 95 million in 2020. Forests experi­encing the most population growth and highest rates of local visitation can expect the greatest impacts on recreation resourc­es and other public benefits. Strong part­nerships and cooperation among Forest Service staffs, local communities, and other concerned parties can help avoid or mitigate potential impacts associated with increased recreation pressure and enhance the recreational experiences of users.

Published June 01, 2015

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