As population, interest in outdoor recreation grow, more pressure likely for northern forests

September 28, 2012 • United States, News

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As population, interest in outdoor recreation grow, more pressure likely for northern forests


Americans began heading outdoors enmasse 60 years ago, and the magic has endured. Forest Service research suggests that in 20 northern states, the growth in both the population and popularity of outdoor recreation’s will likely create pressure for available state and federal recreation areas.

Despite just modest gains in population and participation in outdoor recreation compared to the rest of the nation, there is a strong likelihood of increasing pressure on forest and other undeveloped lands in northern states as the population grows and recreation demands shift.

“Outdoor Recreation in the Northern United States,” a report recently published by the U.S. Forest Service’s Northern Research Station as GTR NRS-100, evaluates recent population trends and forecasts within the context of other U.S. regions, demographic composition of population, recreation participation by residents age 16 and older, trends in activities and time spent outdoors by its youth, and the changes occurring in recreation resources, both public and private. “Outdoor Recreation” is part of the ongoing Northern Forest Futures Project in which scientists are describing current forest conditions and projecting future conditions in the 20 states extending from Maine to Minnesota and from Missouri to Maryland. The publication is available at:

“More people engaging in outdoor recreation is a wonderful thing, but it also translates into greater demand for venues for outdoor recreation and a dilemma for the North’s shrinking supply of undeveloped lands,” said Michael T. Rains, Director of the Northern Research Station. “The Northern Forest Futures Project is generating information that will help natural resource managers and communities respond to this challenge.” By 2060, Federal and State parkland per person in northern states is projected to decrease to 0.13 acres, about 79 percent of the 2008 level.

Currently, more than 31 percent of total land area in the North is non-Federal forest, or 1.19 acres per person.

By 2060, per capita non-Federal forest is predicted to decrease to 0.88 acres per person, or 74 percent of the 2010 level, lower than all other regions and the Nation as a whole. Less than 3 percent of Federal land, about 17.9 million acres, is in the North, and about 69 percent of that is managed by the Forest Service.

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