AN ANALYSIS OF THE WILDLIFE AND FISH SITUATION
IN THE UNITED STATES: 1989-2040

A technical supporting document for the 1989 RPA Assessment

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE WILDLIFE AND FISH RESOURCE SITUATION: 1989-2040

Wildlife and fish are an integral component of all environments from pristine wilderness to the most intensively managed urban settings. The values associated with wildlife and fish have broadened from the utilitarian views held by early subsistence and market hunters to the recognition that animals contribute to the overall public welfare in a multitude of ways. This is reflected in part by increased nonconsumptive uses of wildlife and fish, increased memberships in wildlife and fish organizations, increased public interest in policies and programs affecting wildlife and fish, and in the passage of laws intended to ensure protection and stewardship of the resource.

A national assessment of wildlife and fish is one of the reporting responsibilities of the USDA Forest Service related to the Forest and Rangeland Renewable Resources Planning Act (RPA). The assessment is to serve as the technical basis for developing a national Forest Service Program guiding the management of natural resources. This assessment reports on the current status and recent historic trends of wildlife and fish resources, resource inventory and use projections, and implications and opportunities for resource management programs.

CURRENT STATUS AND RECENT HISTORICAL TRENDS

Four aspect of wildlife and fish resources that are important in a characterization of resource status include habitat, population, harvest, and number of users.

Recent Trends in Wildlife and Fish Habitat

To survive, fish and wildlife need habitat - the availability and appropriate mix of food, cover, and water. Land use and land cover patterns provided a coarse description of the amounts and quality of wildlife and fish habitats.


Recent Trends in Wildlife and Fish Populations, Harvests, and Use

The current status and recent historical trend in populations, harvests, and uses of wildlife and fish resources are closely linked to habitat trends. Although trends vary by species category, those species associated with agricultural, mature and old-growth forest, native grassland, and wetland kinds of environments have had declining or unstable populations in the last 20 years.

Recent trends in the recreational use of wildlife and fish are a function of wildlife and fish availability, and the public=s relative preference for different kinds of recreational activities.

PROJECTED INVENTORIES AND USES OF WILDLIFE AND FISH

Resource inventory and use projections are an integral part of national resource assessments. The projections are suggestive of what the future resource situation may become based on recent experiences. A comparison of future inventories against anticipated uses provides insight into possible imbalances between the supply and demands for wildlife and fish resources.


THE IMPLICATIONS AND OPPORTUNITIES FOR WILDLIFE AND FISH MANAGEMENT

The wildlife and fish inventory and use projections imply certain economic, social, and environmental consequences that could occur if resource use and inventories are not balanced.


Growing human populations will continue to encroach on wildlife and fish habitat; and the demand for timber, livestock, water, and agricultural crops will conflict, in some instances, with wildlife and fish resources. Future natural resource management must balance these multiple resource demands within the constraints defined by the environment. Management opportunities can be categorized into four areas: habitat, population, user, and planning.

Opportunities for management of habitat include:

Opportunities for direct management of wildlife and fish populations include:

Opportunities for user management include:

Opportunities for planning include:

Managing fish and wildlife resources will be especially challenging in the future because of competing demands for the nation's forest and range resource base. As one of the largest land-managing agencies in the federal government, the Forest Service has the opportunity to play an important role in directing the future wildlife and fish resource situation. This opportunity not only exists on vast acreages of national forests, but also in cooperative assistance programs, and by conducting and promoting research within and outside the agency. The nature and extent to which the wildlife and fish resource situation can be improved will be defined by the next Forest Service program. What this assessment has done is to provide planners with a factual and technical basis upon which to consider a number of Forest Service program alternatives.

Flather, Curtis H. and Thomas W. Hoekstra. 1989. An Analysis of the Wildlife and Fish Situation in the United States: 1989-2040. General Technical Report RM-178. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 146 p.