USDA Forest Service Resource Information Group

Ecosystem Assessment

How do we evaluate whether National Forest System management efforts are going well as part of larger social, economic, and ecological systems? How do we evaluate whether changing conditions are moving in a desired direction? How do we evaluate cumulative effects of a proposed management action? Ecosystem Assessments address these and similar questions.

The Resource Information Group (RIG) is responsible for policy, direction, and guidance regarding assessments done to support land management on national forests and grasslands. Specific RIG responsibilities include guidance regarding program management, planning, standardization, corporate information management, accomplishment reporting, and quality assurance and control. These responsibilities apply to social, economic, and ecological resource assessment activities. We coordinate our work with other staff units throughout the Forest Service, with other agencies, and with many partners outside the agency.

An Ecosystem Assessment consists of least three activities:

  1. Gathering information: Accumulating relevant data, often from existing inventories or monitoring results, regarding social, economic, or ecological conditions or trends. Relevant data address key questions identified by agency officials, often based on work with agency partners or the public
  2. Integrating Information: An evaluative synthesis of information that responds to the questions of interest about conditions and trends.
  3. Presenting Information: Understandable presentations of evaluative results to address the key questions and share the integrated findings.

Ecosystem Assessments can occur at tactical, project scales or at strategic, regional or sub-regional scales. Assessments may occur for many purposes, including evaluation of ecological risk, conservation assessments, and cumulative effect analyses required as part of Environmental Impact Analysis.

Monitoring and Evaluation Reports (Selected Examples)

The following are examples from around the nation showing different types and scales of Assessments.

Analysis Guides and References

Staff Contact

Jim Keys
Integrated Resource Inventories
U.S. Forest Service Resource Information Group (RIG)
202-205-1580 or


USDA Forest Service


Non-Governmental Organizations

  • NatureServe - an organization in partnership with The Nature Conservancy, various government, private sector, and international agencies.

USDA Forest Service
Ecosystem Management Coordination (EMC)
1400 Independence Ave.
Mailstop: 1104
Washington, DC 20250-1104

(202) 205-0895 logo

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