RPA Assessment of the Forest and
Rangeland Situation, 1989
The Forest and Rangeland Renewable Resources Planning Act of 1974 (RPA)
directed the Secretary of Agriculture to prepare a renewable resources assessment by the
end of 1975, with an update in 1979 and each tenth year thereafter. This 1989 Assessment
is the third done since 1974. It is composed of 14 supporting documents and this summary
document, which presents an overview of the present situation and the outlook for the land
base, outdoor recreation and wilderness, wildlife and fish, forest and range grazing,
minerals, timber, and water.
1. Recycling of paper and paperboard will become more important as a
source of fiber in the United States, just as it has already in Japan and part of Europe.
We currently have a recycling rate of 25%, compared to 51% in Japan and 47% in European
Economic Community. In this Assessment, we assume the U.S. recycling rate will reach 31%
2. Consumption of water will lessen as irrigation for agriculture is
reduced in the west, but demands for high quality water, such as for drinking, will
continue to grow with the western population.
3. Annual per capita consumption of beef, veal, lamb and mutton is
assumed to remain constant to the year 2040 at 110 pounds per capita. Productivity of
private rangeland is assumed to increase because of the consensus view that landowners
will implement currently available technologies.
4. Demands for outdoor recreation will generally continue to grow with
population growth. An increasing share of the outdoor recreation demand will be accounted
for by recreationists taking shorter trips closer to home.
5. The number of people participating in nonconsumptive wildlife
recreation, fishing, and migratory bird hunting is expected to rise over the next 5
6. In general, domestic demand for metallic minerals and precious metals
will continue to increase, but demand for any given metallic mineral is likely to be
highly variable and dependent on technology and the evolution of end-use markets.
7. Changes in global climate can significantly affect the productivity,
health, and diversity of forest and range ecosystems.
- Demands for all of the major timber products are expected to increase
over the next 5 decades.
- Total demands for hardwoods from the domestic timber resource are
expected to increase 79%, while softwood demands are expected to increase 35%.
- Changes in technology that affect product recovery from roundwood and
increased recycling of paper and paperboard are reflected in projections.
- Harvest on forest industry lands is projected to increase 31%, to 7.2
billion cubic feet in 2040, reflecting the assumption that these lands will be managed
intensively in the future.
- Harvest on other private lands is projected to increase 70%, to 15.6
billion cubic feet in 2040.
- For national forests, harvest levels are assumed to reach 2.4 billion
cubic feet in 2040.
- Supplies from other public lands are assumed relatively constant at
recent harvest levels (1.35 billion cubic feet).
- Supplies will meet demands in the U.S. markets, but prices will be
- If global climate or other changes in the natural environment were to
cause extensive reductions in timber growth, this would have major impacts on the domestic
situation, with the effects building over time.
- Water demands will increase significantly in the years ahead.
- Limits on water supplies will force reallocation of available supplies
among users, especially in some parts of the west.
- Reallocation of supplies will generally be from uses such as irrigation
(where quality is not an overriding concern) to municipal use (where quality can be all
- Markets may facilitate reallocation of water use, but management of some
watersheds, especially on public lands, may become more important from the standpoint of
both water quantity and quality.
- Surface water quality has been a concern for much of this century.
Legislation in the early 1970s targeted point sources of pollution. The reduction of point
sources has been a success story - up to 90% of our inland surface waters are now fishable
- Various nonpoint sources of pollution are the principal sources of
residual problems where surface waters do not meet designated use standards. Groundwater
quality concerns could engender significant changes in agricultural practices. Also, water
management policies may create situations where uses are not compatible, such as
management of water levels in reservoirs without regard to effects on fish and wildlife.
- With regard to fish and wildlife, it is estimated that about 80% of the
nations flowing waters have opportunities to improve water quantity, water quality, fish
habitat, or composition of the fish community. However, it is also estimated that
two-thirds of U.S. streams have habitat adequate for sports fish.
- Average annual flood damages are expected to increase in the future,
mainly due to increased development and rising property values on floodplains.
Range Forage Findings
- Per capita consumption of beef, veal, lamb, and mutton is projected to
remain near current levels during the coming decades.
- Future demand will grow in concert with population growth in the U.S.
- Total demand on the domestic range forage resource is expected to
increase 54% by 2040, after taking into account imports and exports.
- Forage from public lands accounts for less than 10% of total forage
consumption by domestic livestock.
- It is assumed that forage productivity on private lands will increase
over time. Much of the current and prospective range forage supply situation depends on
- Total supply of range forage is expected to increase 52% by 2040, with
most of the increase coming from private lands.
- Multiple use management of public and private rangelands will be
necessary to accommodate domestic livestock, wildlife, recreation, and other uses of
Outdoor Recreation Findings
- The number of people participating in recreation is expected to increase
across all recreational activities in the next 5 decades.
- The percentage of the total population participating in recreation has
stabilized in recent years, as has the per capita allocation of leisure time to
- Total demand for recreation would grow at least in line with population
growth if this pattern continues in the future.
- The extra income available if real per capita income doubles by 2040 will
contribute to differential rates of growth in recreational activities. For example,
demands for snow-related recreation are expected to grow at a faster rate than for most
land- and water-based activities, although the latter activities will continue to dominate
total recreation patterns.
- If the public and private sectors continue to provide and expand
opportunities at rates comparable to recent trends, the projected increases in supplies
will meet most of the projected increases in demand.
- The effect of continuing closure of private lands to public access is
evident in the shortfall in land- and snow-based opportunities near roaded, partially
- To meet these shortfalls, fees will become more important in the futures,
particularly for use of private lands. Most of the increase in demand will be near
existing population centers, which are generally far away from the bulk of federal lands
located in the west.
- National forests and other public lands in the North, South, and Pacific
Coast regions are expected to become more important for all forms of recreation if access
remains generally unrestricted and free.
- Rather than national trends affecting all regions alike, the differential
rates of growth in activities indicate that specific regions and areas will be affected
differently by the expected growth in recreation. For example, growth in demand for
downhill skiing has obvious implications for areas with the unique terrain required for
- About 89 million acres are currently in the National Wilderness
- About 1 of every 6 acres in the National Forest System is designated as
- Wilderness use accounts for less than 1% of all outdoor recreation.
- Total time spent in wilderness has been relatively stable in recent
- Wilderness areas contribute to maintenance of species diversity and
protection of habitat for threatened and endangered species; and they are also important
in ways unrelated to on-site recreation.
- Major future growth of the National Wilderness Preservation System is not
Wildlife and Fish Findings
- As land use intensifies on private lands, the National Forest System and
other public lands will become more important for their unique wildlife and fish habitats,
and especially significant for the 166 threatened and endangered species found on national
- Big and small game hunting are expected to decline slowly but steadily in
the next 5 decades.
- Migratory bird hunting will also decline somewhat to 2000 before it rises
- Increases in supply of opportunities for cold-water fishing, migratory
bird hunting, big game hunting, and small game hunting could lead to somewhat higher
demand trends for these wildlife and fish activities.
- Increases in nonconsumptive uses will grow about twice as fast as
population to 2000, while warm and cold water fishing will increase about the same as
population growth. Rates of growth will accelerate after 2000.
- Analysis of participation rates for wildlife recreation opportunities
indicates that national forests and other public lands are expected to become more
important for big and small game hunting and coldwater fishing if access remains generally
unrestricted and free.
- Hunting in designated areas for a fee, especially on private lands, is
expected to become more important in the future and increase the pressure on public lands.
- Although the U.S. is a mineral-rich nation, it imports significant
quantities of some minerals, especially petroleum.
- Demands for energy minerals will increase, with domestic energy
production and energy prices dependent on foreign competition and technological
developments in minerals exploration and recovery.
- Overall, there will be no quantitative shortage of any energy materials
worldwide, although the price of oil is expected to increase significantly after the turn
of the century.
- In general, domestic demand for metallic minerals and precious metals
will continue to increase, but demand for any given metallic mineral is likely to be
highly variable and dependent on technology developments and the evolution of end-use
- The U.S. has supplies of many metallic minerals and precious metals
sufficient to accommodate domestic demand through 2040. For some minerals that the U.S.
imports, availability of supplies will be influenced by politics and the stability of
government of the producing country as well as the physical availability of the resource.
- Demands for minerals materials and construction are likely to follow
trends in population and economic growth.
- Historically, the domestic supply of minerals materials used in
construction has been in equilibrium with demand. No national quantitative shortfall is
anticipated, but local shortfalls may occur.
USDA Forest Service. 1989. RPA Assessment of the Forest and Rangeland Situation, 1989.
Forest Resource Report 26. Washington, D.C