From: Allison Winter, ENN
Published October 3, 2012 06:20 AM

Northern forests may become stressed due to increasing outdoor recreation

Federal and state park systems in the United States are known for their natural beauty, uninhabited forests and pristine environments. We also think of them for the variety of outdoor recreation they provide.

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However, as regional populations grow along with the influx of tourists and daily visitors, forests will surely be affected. This increase will call for a greater development of land and water resources as the demand for outdoor recreation expands.

A report published by the U.S. Forest Service's Northern Research Station titled "Outdoor Recreation in the Northern United States" looks at recent population trends and forecasts within the context of U.S. regions and demographic composition of populations, while studying recreation participation, trends in activities, and time spent outdoors.

The report finds that there is a strong likelihood of increasing pressure on forest and other undeveloped lands in northern states, which extend from Maine to Minnesota and from Missouri to Maryland, as the population grows and recreation demands shift.

"More people engaging in outdoor recreation is a wonderful thing, but it also translates into greater demand for venues for outdoor recreation and a dilemma for the North's shrinking supply of undeveloped lands," said Michael T. Rains, Director of the Northern Research Station. "The Northern Forest Futures Project is generating information that will help natural resource managers and communities respond to this challenge."

One of the report's key findings is that the northern states saw an increase of about 4 percent in people ages 16 and older who engage in outdoor recreation. This shows that more young people are getting outside which breaks the notion that children are spending too much time inside.

Another highlight is that outdoor recreational activities are changing and are attracting new types of people. While popular activities range from walking to visiting outdoor nature centers, and camping, people are shifting to new, more exotic outdoor activities such as geocaching, zip lining, snowboarding, photography, and mountain biking, which were largely unknown to past generations.

The findings can also be related to local communities as many have realized the importance of outdoor recreation and have made efforts to create local nature preserves. However, as more people use these recreational areas, new challenges will arise. Some examples are maintaining trails, sustaining funding for local, state and federal parks, and preserving and up keeping forests and wilderness sites.

For more information read: Outdoor Recreation in the Northern United States.

Hiking in forest image via Shutterstock. 

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