assessment of sustainability of our forests

Southern Forest Resource Assessment

led by the USDA Forest Service's Southern Region and Southern Research Station in collaboration with the USEPA, US Fish & Wildlife, TVA, and state forestry agencies of the Southern United States

Broad Category: Social/Economic Factors

Question SOCIO-6: What are the supplies of and demands for forest based recreation and other noncommodity uses of forests in the South?

Question Manager: Ken Cordell and Michael Tarrant

Specific points to be addressed in answering the question:

  1. Evaluate the relationships between forest management and forest types and recreation opportunities.
  2. Evaluate opportunities for developing new sources of recreation supply.
  3. Evaluate the potential for conflicts between different forms of recreations.
  4. Address the roles of different landowner groups in providing recreation.
  5. Inventory forest-based recreation opportunities.
  6. What are the adverse impacts of recreation activities on forested and aquatic ecosystems and where are they located...


Outdoor recreation is a rapidly growing use of forested land and water in the South (Cordell 1999). Driven by population, demographic and land use changes, growth and diversification of demand has many implications. Socially, plentiful and varied opportunities available across the spectrum of southern society contributes to quality of life. Economically, outdoor recreation and resource-based tourism provide major sources of income and employment to Southern communities. For forest ecosystems, growing recreation demand can act as a stressor on components of those system, i.e., wildlife, water, and vegetation. Recreation uses of forests is fast becoming a dominant use in some areas of the South. Especially on public lands and in the Southern Appalachian and Interior highlands, this domination can results in limitations on management options. Addressing this question as part of the Southern Forest Resource Assessment will help shed light on the social, economic and ecological roles of outdoor recreation.

Methods of analysis: The primary focus of this portion of the assessment will be to describe the demand and supply trends occurring in the South. A secondary focus will be to describe other non-commodity uses. Recreation demand and supply analyses will be drawn mostly from data bases developed for the 2000 national Renewable Resources Planning Act Assessment of Outdoor Recreation and Wilderness (Cordell 1999). Demand will be measured as quantity consumed (participation) in outdoor recreation activities that typically occur  in forested settings in the South. Supply will be measured as the quantity of sites, facilities and services provided by both the private and public sectors. Both demand and supply data are available at county scale which will enable spatial analysis and mapping of demand/supply spatial patterns. Forest cover at county level is also available to enable overlaying recreation demand/supply patterns with forest occurrence. Both trends and current levels of demand and supply will be described.

Describing non-commodity uses will be of greater difficulty. For this assessment, non-commodity uses will include subsistence uses, gathering forest products and scenery enhancement. Direct data are available only for some forest product gathering activities. Such activities would include gathering mushrooms, berries, cones, flora, roots, stones, firewood, bait, and specimens. Assessment of subsistence uses and scenery enhancement uses will rely mostly on reviews of previous writings. Little research has been done covering these uses in the South.

In addition to the primary question addressing demand and supply of outdoor recreation, the following sub-questions need to be addressed:

a. Relationships between forest management, forest types and recreation opportunities. Forest management scenarios to be assessed will include a spectrum of management intensities ranging from maximum wood production, short rotation plantations to preservation as wilderness. Similarly, forest types will include a spectrum of types from young growth monocultures of pines to mature old growth dominated by hardwoods. Little direct research has been done to assess the relationship between forest management or forest types and outdoor recreation opportunities. Limited work on visual quality associated with stand conditions will be used to speculate about the recreation supply implications of a range of forest management/forest type conditions.

b. Demand for new sources of recreation supply. Populations grow and change. The contemporary population of the South is rapidly changing in makeup and in lifestyles. To address this sub-question, an analysis of population change and its makeup will be conducted for subregions to identify the nature of the changes that are occurring and their implications for outdoor recreation supply. In addition, recent trends in demand will be examined to identify fast growing new forms of outdoor recreation engagement which are beginning to place new demands on forests as a supply base.

c. Conflicts between different recreation uses. Research has explored conflicts between motorized and non-motorized uses, horse and pedestrian trail uses, consumptive and non-consumptive uses and solitude and group uses. Literature from this research will be the primary source for addressing this sub-question.

d. Roles of different land owners in providing recreation opportunities. The types of land owners to be addressed include the different federal ownerships, state government, local government, industry, large individual ownerships and small individual ownerships. Make up of these owners’ forest holdings, legislative mandates, and access policies will be examined in describing the differences in roles that exist.

e. Adverse impacts of recreation on forest and aquatic ecosystems. Little work on the direct impact of recreation use has been done, except on trail impacts. Thus, much of the assessment of adverse impact will be speculative based on extrapolation from what is known in the literature. In addition to speculation, however, spatial analysis will be conducted to identify where recreation pressures on forest resources are occurring in the South. A selected few of the thusly identified local “hotspots” will be examined in more detail to describe extant conditions and likely long-term impacts.

Data Sources:

The primary sources of data will include:

•  The National Survey on Recreation and the Environment (NSRE) done in 1995 and going on now in 2000. NSRE 1995 and 2000 are the 7th and 8th respectively in the nation’s on-going series of National Recreation Surveys. The first was started under the Eisenhower Administration in 1957. Included in the data are participation, attitudes, travel patterns, intensity of participation and demographics (Cordell 1999).

•  Supply data will be drawn from the National Outdoor Recreation Supply Information System develop by the Forest Service for national coverage of federal, state, local, and private sector supply information (Betz 1999).

•  Data describing the access policies of private land owners will be taken from the National Private Land Owners Survey (NPLOS). NPLOS covers landowner objectives, tract description, land uses, environmental attitudes, leasing, and demographics (Teasley 1999).

•  The Woods and Poole Econometric projections and Bureau of Census Survey of Current Population will be used to obtain data to describe demographic trends in the South.


•  A 25-page publication-quality report with maps and illustrations

•  A web site summary with enhanced maps and graphics

•  A Power Point presentation with high quality graphics and photographs for use in presentations and as a source of general summary information accessible via the internet

•  A CD with color enhanced and voice explained maps and graphics based primarily on the presentation produced above.

Collaborators and Sources:

The principal collaborators will be faculty at the University of Georgia and at other universities in the South. Much of the data and secondary source information are already in hand in the Southern Research Station unit in Athens Georgia.

Links to other questions:

The principal link will be to Social/Economic question 4d. This subquestion asks about NIPF land owners’ perspectives on the use of their forests for recreation and other uses. The NPLOS data base will be shared with the manager of this question.

Unresolved Issues:

The principal unresolved issue is identifying and describing linkages between forest management, forest type and recreation supply. To our knowledge, little research has addressed theses linkages. Similarly, little research has been done to assess non-commodity uses of forests, other than recreation. In both of these instances of unresolved issues, heavy reliance on published literature will be given.

Cited and Other Relevant Literature:

Betz, Carter and Ken Cordell. 1999. The National Outdoor Recreation Supply Information System. Unpublished documentation of the NPLOS data base, Spring, 1999, Athens, GA.

Cordell, H. Ken et al. 1999. Outdoor Recreation in American Life. Urbana-Champaign, Illinois, Sagamore Publishing, 449 pages.

Teasley, Jeffery et al. 1999. Private Lands and Outdoor Recreation in the United States. Chapter 4 in Outdoor Recreation in American Life. Urbana-Champaign, Illinois, Sagamore Publishing, 183-218.



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 modified: 2-MAR-2000