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Four Threats - Quick Facts

You are here: Four Threats > Quick Facts > Unmanaged Recreation

Unmanaged Recreation

Growing outdoor recreation

  • A 2000 survey showed that 202 million Americans over the age of 15 participate in some form of outdoor recreation, or about 97.5 percent of the population.
  • Between 1983 and 1995, percentage of Americans over the age of 15 who:
    • Participated in active outdoor recreation sometime during the year grew from 32 to 56 percent.
    • Traveled to recreation destinations grew from 70 to 90 percent.
  • From 1946 to 2000, the number of National Forest System (NFS) visitors grew 18 times. In 2002, the numbers of visitors to national forests and grasslands reached 214 million. Another 215 million people drove through and/or stopped at overlooks and scenic pullouts to enjoy the vistas but did not use Forest Service facilities. As the US population is expected to more than double from 275 to 571 million by the next century (2100), the number of visitors to NFS lands is expected to dramatically increase.
  • Pressures on undeveloped natural land for recreation purposes due to growth in U.S. population will be:
    • Moderate to heavy through most of the West
    • Heavy through most of the Southwest and the Rockies

Growing OHV use

  • One of the fastest growing forms of outdoor recreation involves the use of OHVs. OHV users have grown tenfold since 1972, from approximately five million to 51 million in 2004. OHV users account for about 11 million annual visits to the national forests and grasslands.
  • Surveys conducted in 1983 and 1995 shows that Americans over the age of 15 who:
    • Used OHVs sometime during the year grew from 4 to 14 percent.
    • Took recreational trips to distant destinations grew from 40 to 67 percent.
  • Of visitors to the national forests, 11 million visits involve OHV use.
  • Decreasing availability of open space outside of pubic land along with the surge in the use of OHVs is likely to increase the demand for OHV use on NFS lands.
  • Other public and private lands will be affected by the increasing use of OHVs. Increased population growth, urbanization, and changing demographics are creating competition for space and activities.

Impacts of unmanaged recreation

  • Erosion, user conflicts, spread of invasive species, damage to cultural sites, disturbance to wildlife, destruction of wildlife habitat, and risks to public safety can result from unmanaged recreation, including cross-country OHV use.

New Travel Management Rule

  • The Forest Service’s new travel management rule provides the framework for each national forest and grassland to designate those roads, trails and areas open to motor vehicle use. Designated routes and areas will be identified on a motor vehicle use map.

For more information

Last Update: 30 October 2006

US Forest Service
Last modified March 28, 2013

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