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Individual Highlight

Study Projects Outdoor Recreation Levels in the United States to 2060

Outdoor recreation will remain a key part of the social and economic fabric of the United States for many decades to come. Forest ServiceSnapshot : Changes in climate, socioeconomic conditions, and land use, along with population growth will affect future outdoor recreation activity in the United States.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Bowker, J. Michael 
Research Station : Southern Research Station (SRS)
Year : 2012
Highlight ID : 137


Forest Service scientists developed national projections on outdoor recreation participation for 17 activities through 2060. The scientists made projections using a two-step approach to project the number of participants and the number of days of participation under future scenarios that varied by population growth, socioeconomic conditions, land use changes, and climate.

The estimation step yielded national level statistical models of adult participation rate and days of participation, by activity. The simulation step combined the models with external projections of explanatory variables at 10-year intervals, up to the year 2060. Results were derived across three 2010 Resources Planning Act Assessment scenarios that each feature three associated climate futures.

Findings indicated that outdoor recreation would remain a key part of the social and economic fabric of the United States. In the absence of climate change, the number of participants in the 17 recreation activities is projected to increase during the next five decades. In some cases, the participation rate will decline, but population growth will ensure that the number of participants increases.

Some climate futures led to projected declines in participants, e.g., snowmobiling and undeveloped skiing showed declines in participant numbers up to 25 percent, despite population growth. Climate was also shown to have disparate effects on projections of annual days of participation, particularly for snowmobiling, undeveloped skiing, and hunting.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • Forest Service Washington Office
  • University of Georgia

Program Areas