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What is an RPA Assessment?
USDA Forest Service
Department of Agriculture
with this site contact the
THE RPA ASSESSMENT:
PRESENT, AND FUTURE
(revised September 18, 2002)
The Congress called for an assessment of the
Nation's renewable resources in 1974, because they believed reliable information was
necessary to properly manage those resources and make informed policy decisions. The need
for reliable information on the status and trends of the Nation's resources continues
today. However, the emphasis has broadened from a solely economic concern with supply and
demand to concern about resource conditions, ecosystem health, and sustainability.
The Resources Planning Act
The Forest and Rangeland Renewable Resources
Planning Act of 1974 (RPA) requires the Secretary of Agriculture to conduct an assessment
of the Nation's renewable resources every 10 years. The original Act had four requirements
for the Assessment:
"(1) an analysis of present and anticipated uses, demand for, and
supply of the renewable resources, with consideration of the international resource
situation, and an emphasis of pertinent supply and demand and price relationship trends;
(2) an inventory,...of present and potential renewable resources, and an
evaluation of opportunities for improving their yield of tangible and intangible
(3) a description of Forest Service programs and responsibilities...;
(4) a discussion of important policy considerations, laws, regulations,
and other factors expected to influence and affect significantly the use, ownership, and
management of forest, range, and other associated lands.
Subsequent amendments to the RPA added two
(5) an analysis of the potential effects of global
climate change on the condition of renewable resources on the forests and rangelands of
the United States; and
(6) an analysis of the rural and urban forestry opportunities to
mitigate the buildup of atmospheric carbon dioxide and reduce the risk of global climate
These amendments also added specific reporting
requirements for forest products, including:
"(1) the additional fiber potential in the National Forest
(2) the potential for increased utilization of forest and wood product
(3) the milling and other wood fiber product fabrication facilities and
their location in the United States...."
The Assessment-related language of the RPA is
primarily focused on resource availability. However, "resource condition" is
mentioned in the original legislation and in the amendment on global change. Further, the
Act specifically states that the Assessment is not limited to the requirements in the Act,
which allows for flexibility in developing the Assessment framework.
An Overview of Past RPA Assessments
The 1979 RPA Assessment
The first Assessment report was due in 1975, with an update in 1979 and
every 10 years afterward. The 1975 RPA Assessment compiled existing information on
renewable resources. Individual chapters described the basic assumptions; the forest and
rangeland resource base; the current and projected supply and demand for outdoor
recreation and wilderness, wildlife and fish, range forage, timber, and water; and
additional needs for scientific information.
The Forest Service developed a research agenda for completing the 1979
Assessment, which resulted in a more rigorous analytical approach. The basic format for
1979 was similar to the 1975 Assessment. However, it included more original analysis, as
well as a new section on resource interactions, which addressed the feasibility of meeting
all resource demands simultaneously. A separate document on the timber portion of the
Assessment also was published as supporting material.
The Forest Service chose to publish a 5-year update of the 1979
Assessment. The 1984 RPA Assessment update highlighted changes in the renewable resource
trends that had occurred since the 1979 Assessment, and included a chapter on Assessment
implications for the RPA Program.
The 1989 RPA Assessment
A new approach was developed for the 1989 RPA Assessment. A major
research effort was undertaken to increase the Forest Service's analysis capabilities in
all resource areas. A resource specialist was assigned for each resource area and charged
with producing a technical document that provided supporting information and analysis to
the Assessment summary document. These specialists were primarily field research
The 1989 RPA Assessment summarized the findings from each resource area.
The document was designed to appeal to a wide audience by shortening the length and
minimizing technical jargon. The detailed technical information supporting the summary
document was published in a series of documents. Seven documents reported on the findings
in each resource area (wildlife and fish, range forage, outdoor recreation and wilderness,
water, timber, minerals, and land base). Five additional documents were published on
multiple resource interactions, global climate change, programs and responsibilities of
the Forest Service, evolving uses of the Nation's resources, and basic assumptions.
The 1989 RPA Assessment and supporting technical documents are available on
the RPA web site in .pdf format (1989 Publications)
The Forest Service opted to produce an update to the 1989 Assessment.
The update was targeted for 1993, so that the information would be available for use in
developing the 1995 RPA Program. Although the update included new information on supply
and demand trends, the focus was on domestic and international resource issues. Based on
the 1989 Assessment findings, a number of resource issues were identified that had the
potential to impact resource availability and use. Studies were commissioned to further
study a subset of those issues. The results of these studies are highlighted throughout
the 1993 Assessment update, and a technical document was published to support each issue
analysis. Issues included biological diversity, recycling, threatened and endangered
species, customer diversity and the demand for recreation, forest productivity and climate
change, private forest investment, and water quality on forest and rangelands.
The 1989 RPA Assessment and supporting technical documents are available on
the RPA web site in .pdf format (1993 Publications)
The 2000 RPA Assessment
The original language of the Resources Planning Act emphasizes resource
availability in an economic context. However, it is clear that the ability of the resource
base to produce both tangible and intangible outputs for society is dependent on the
condition of the resource base. As a result, more attention was directed to assessing
resource conditions for the 2000 RPA Assessment. International linkages continue to be
important. National policies and international agreements on global warming and biological
diversity have increased the visibility of international resource issues. U.S. demands
affect resource conditions and supplies outside national boundaries.
In 1993, the President established a goal of achieving sustainable
forest management (SFM) of all U.S. forests by the year 2000. This was followed by the
signing of the Santiago Declaration in 1995, which committed the U.S. to a process of
developing and evaluating national indicators of SFM.
A set of seven criteria and 67
indicators were initially endorsed for use.
The seven criteria provide the organizing framework for the 2000 RPA
Assessment. The Assessment serves as a synthesis and reporting mechanism for the SFM
criteria and indicators at the national level. The SFM indicators focus on historic and
current conditions. Additional information is provided on rangeland resources,
mineral resources, and the projected outlook for forest and rangeland resources.
As with previous Assessments the 2000 RPA Assessment and supporting
technical documents are available on the RPA web site in .pdf format
on the RPA website. (2000