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Resources Planning Act (RPA) Assessment

Monitoring Stream

The Resources Planning Act (RPA) Assessment reports on the status and trends of the Nation's renewable resources on all forest and rangelands, as required by the Forest and Rangeland Renewable Resources Planning Act of 1974. The USDA Forest Service has conducted natural resource analyses for over a century. The 1974 RPA legislation established a periodic reporting requirement and broadened the coverage to all renewable resources on U.S. forests and rangelands. The RPA Assessment includes analyses of forests, rangelands, wildlife and fish, biodiversity, water, outdoor recreation, wilderness, urban forests, and the effects of climate change on these resources.

Update to the 2010 RPA Assessment

Front Cover

The most current assessment, Future of America's Forests and Rangelands: Update to the Forest Service 2010 Resources Planning Act Assessment, is available online. View the one page fact sheet. This report is an interim update to the 2010 RPA Assessment. It builds upon the 2010 RPA Assessment and provides more recent information and new analyses about resource conditions and trends on the Nation's forests and rangelands. The RPA Update Assessment examines how land development, climate change, and natural disturbances continue to influence the extent, pattern, and conditions of forest and rangeland ecosystems. The interaction of socioeconomic and biophysical drivers affects the productivity of forest and rangeland ecosystems and their ability to meet increasing demands for goods and services. These effects vary regionally and locally, requiring flexible adaptation and management strategies.

The information in the Update to the 2010 RPA Assessment is supported by a variety of publications, including Forest Service General Technical Reports (GTRs) and journal articles. The supporting GTRs are posted on the Update to the 2010 RPA Assessment publication page.

Questions or comments about the RPA Assessment and requests for additional copies should be directed to Linda Langner (703-605-4886; llangner@fs.fed.us) or Claire O’Dea (202-205-1686; cbodea@fs.fed.us).

RPA Assessment Webinar Series

Upcoming Webinars

Below is the current schedule and participant information for RPA Assessment resource-specific webinars. Webinars are still being scheduled, so please check this site regularly for updates.

Completed Webinars

Topic: Climate Scenarios and Projections for the 2020 RPA Assessment
Presenter: Linda Joyce, Research Scientist, Rocky Mountain Research Station

Summary: This webinar explains the process used to select the climate scenarios and climate model projections that will be used in the 2020 RPA Assessment in the hopes that others can make use of the climate projections for land management planning and decision-making, or for future climate modeling and research (data is available in the FS Research Data Archive). In addition to discussing the climate scenario and climate model selection process, we describe whether climate selection would change when evaluated at the end of the 21st century vs the mid-century or at the National Forest System regional scale vs the conterminous US scale. The availability of downscaled data, RPA emission scenario selections, and analysis of individual climate models were all part of the selection process. The 2020 RPA Assessment will provide projections under two different emissions scenarios developed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: the likely low end of future increased emissions (Representative Pathway Concentration (RCP) 4.5) and the likely high end of future emissions (RCP 8.5). The climate models that produced the wettest, hottest, and driest projections for each RCP scenario were selected, along with the models that produced the projections with the least change in temperature. Model performance was evaluated and considered, and no more than one model from a model family was selected. Watch a recording of the webinar and download the presentation.

Topic: Overview Webinar
Summary: A webinar on the Update to the 2010 RPA Assessment was held in early February 2017. This webinar focused on the scope of the Assessment Update, and provided an overview of the results. A recording of the webinar can be watched here, and the presentation can be downloaded here.

Topic: U.S. forest carbon: trends and projections
Presenters: David Wear, Project Leader, Center for Integrated Forest Science, and John Coulston, Research Forester, Forest Inventory and Analysis Program, Southern Research Station.

Summary: U.S. forests continue to sequester significant amounts of atmospheric carbon. The Update to the 2010 RPA Assessment found a persistent but declining rate of forest carbon sequestration at the national level. This webinar reports on advances in isolating carbon transfers among dynamic land uses and to harvested wood products; regional variation in rates of forest carbon sequestration, and forest growth and disturbance effects on carbon stocks. Watch a recording of the webinar and download the presentation.

Topic: U.S. forest fragmentation and land cover patterns
Presenter: Kurt Riitters, Research Ecologist, Eastern Forest Environmental Threat Assessment Center (EFETAC), Southern Research Station

Summary: Forest fragmentation continues even as total forestland area remains relatively stable. The Update to the 2010 RPA Assessment reported that forest cover fragmentation increased from 2001 to 2011, with fragmentation rates higher on private land than on public land. This webinar will describe how the RPA Assessment treatment of forest spatial patterns has evolved, summarize key results related to forest spatial patterns, and discuss future directions in evaluating fragmentation and land cover patterns. Watch a recording of the webinar and download the presentation.

Topic: Future water supply vulnerability in the U.S.
Presenter: Thomas Brown, Research Economist, Rocky Mountain Research Station

Summary: Future population growth and climatic change will tend to increase water demand, and climatic change will also decrease water supply in many locations. Together, these demand and supply changes will tend to increase the likelihood of water shortages. The Update to the 2010 RPA Assessment examined opportunities for ameliorating those shortages. This webinar will review the projections of water demand and supply over the 21st century across the major water basins of the conterminous U.S. and summarize what we have learned about the likely effectiveness of selected adaptation measures in avoiding future water shortages. Watch a recording of the webinar and download the presentation.

Topic: U.S. Forest Products Markets and Wood Pellet Exports
Presenters: Jeffrey Prestemon, Research Forester and Project Leader, and Karen Abt, Research Economist, Forest Economics and Policy Research, Southern Research Station

Summary: The U.S. forest products market has undergone both cyclical and long-run changes during the past decade. The Update to the 2010 RPA Assessment examined the historical U.S. role in international forest product markets, reflected on potential effects of current and expected trends on the future U.S. role, and evaluated the relatively new U.S. market for exporting wood pellets. This seminar will summarize the outlook for U.S. forest product sectors, including the effect of wood pellet markets on forests in the U.S. South, and discuss future directions for evaluating forest product trends. Watch a recording of the Forest Products Markets webinar and download the presentation. Watch a recording of the Wood Pellets Exports webinar and download the presentation.

Topic: U.S. Trends in, and the Geography of, At-Risk Biodiversity
Presenter: Curtis Flather, Research Ecologist, Rocky Mountain Research Station

Summary: The number of species at risk of extinction continues to increase. The Update to the 2010 RPA Assessment reported a net increase of 167 species listed under the Endangered Species Act - an annual listing rate that doubled the average reported in 2010. This webinar will review these temporal trends by broad taxonomic groupings along with their spatial patterns of concentration. Because species associated with aquatic habitats are disproportionately represented on at-risk species lists, this webinar will also review a case study that explored the potential for co-benefits associated with providing clean drinking water and conserving aquatic biodiversity. The webinar will close with a review of our efforts to anticipate where concentrations of at-risk species are likely to emerge in the future as climate regimes change, land use activities shift, and human populations grow. Watch a recording of the webinar and download the presentation.

Topic: U.S. rangeland projections and trends
Presenter: Matt Reeves, Research Ecologist, Rocky Mountain Research Station

Summary: The Update to the 2010 RPA Assessment reported on evaluations of rangeland resource trends, as well as projections of net primary productivity and vulnerability of cattle operations through 2100. This webinar will review trends in growing conditions, droughts, degradation, and productivity that have occurred in past decades while providing an overview of projections of rangeland productivity and potential for cattle production. Projections of net primary productivity suggest increases in northern regions and decreases in southern regions. These projected changes in primary production combined with an analysis of heat stress, inter-annual forage variability, and vegetation shifts, suggest cattle operations in the southwestern U.S. are significantly more vulnerable than northern regions and high elevation areas in the intermountain west. This webinar concludes with a brief discussion of analyses being conducted in support of the upcoming 2020 assessment. Watch a recording of the webinar and download the presentation.

Topic: U.S. outdoor recreation projections and trends
Presenter: J. M. Bowker, Research Scientist, Southern Research Station

Summary: The Update to the 2010 RPA Assessment provides regional recreation participation projections for the four RPA regions - the North, South, Rocky Mountain, and Pacific Coast Regions. In doing so, we are able to examine whether climate is likely to have different impacts across both recreation activities and regions. We also examine recreation visitation to national forests and grasslands, summarizing regional and national estimates of visitation, activity participation, demographic characteristics, and perceptions of satisfaction and crowding among national forest visitors.  This webinar concludes with a brief discussion of analyses being conducted in support of the upcoming 2020 assessment. Watch a recording of the webinar and download the presentation.

Topic: A Temporal Importance-Performance Analysis of Recreation Attributes on National Forests
Presenter: Mike Bowker, Research Scientist, Southern Research Station & Ashley Askew, University of Georgia

Summary: This webinar reviews implementation of a widely used tool with origins in marketing research known as importance-performance analysis (IPA) to better understand visitor satisfaction on national forests. With the systematic and consistent data collection methodology in place from the National Visitor Use Monitoring (NVUM) Program, we assessed visitor ratings of importance and satisfaction on multiple attributes related to national forest recreation, as well as overall satisfaction and crowding ratings, over two recent survey periods spanning ten years. These attributes ranged from those in the natural domain (e.g., condition of natural environment and quality of scenery) to the developed setting (e.g., availability of parking and condition of parking lots). We classified the attributes into one of four IPA management actions and also conducted an intertemporal analysis to assess sustainability. The significance of changes between rounds in importance and satisfaction can provide insight into potentially problematic shifts, such as declining satisfaction in conjunction with increasing importance. Overall, users of the national forests (NFs) were satisfied and found the attributes important. We identify relative over- and under-performers to better inform the allocation of resources within site type per attribute for the RPA regions and nation. Watch a recording of the webinar and download the presentation.

Topic: Interpreting the Update to the 2010 RPA Assessment for Land Management: A Case Study for the Northern and Southwestern Regions of the USDA Forest Service
Presenter: Linda Joyce, Research Scientist, Rocky Mountain Research Station

Summary: The Update to the 2010 RPA Assessment reported on the use of the 2010 RPA data and analyses to identify the status, trends, and projected future of renewable resources for two National Forest System (NFS) regions: the Northern Region (Region 1) and the Southwestern Region (Region 3). Current patterns and future projections of human population growth and land use differ between the regions with a greater share of NFS lands occurring in counties with high population density and growth in the Southwestern Region than the Northern region. Rangeland, agriculture, and energy are increasingly interconnected in both regions. Many counties in the Northern Region are more reliant on timber processing than is the Nation as a whole. Visitors to both regions rate the quality of the natural environment very positively, with crowding mentioned as a negative attribute in Region 3. The impacts of future climate change may be greater in the Southwestern Region; however, the nature of the amenities in the Northern Region will likely draw increasing numbers of people and economic development, with associated challenges for NFS land management. Watch a recording of the webinar and download the presentation.