US Forest Service Large Scale Natural Resource Assessment and Climate Change

Reviews the history of the Renewable Resources Planning Act (RPA) and how climate change is being incorporated.


Linda Joyce


Producer - Michael Furniss
Videography - Ben Nieves
Technical production - Jeffrey Guntle

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The Forest Service Renewable Resource Assessment is legally mandated to analyze the impacts of climate change on forest and rangelands and to identify urban and rural forestry opportunities for mitigation. In 1974, the Forest and Rangeland Renewable Resources Planning Act (RPA) directed the Secretary of Agriculture to prepare national assessments that analyze the demand for and supply of renewable resources from all forests and rangelands in the United States. This information would provide reliable information for resource management planning at national and regional scales. Since 1974, these national renewable resource assessments have focused on timber, wildlife and fish, range, water, recreation, wilderness, and special topics such as biodiversity, species endangerment patterns, and land use. In 1990, this act was amended to add the analysis of climate change impacts and forestry opportunities for mitigation. Since 1990, there have been three climate change assessments as part of the RPA process. The addition of climate change into the RPA process facilitated opportunities to identify new research that built on existing agency policy:, for example, analyses conducted by RPA identified research areas for the new FS international Change Research Program. The first analysis of the impacts of climate change on a nation’s forest sector and carbon budget was conducted as part of the 1993 interim assessment. This modeling framework and results demonstrated the importance of linking ecological impacts analysis to the economic analysis. The addition of this issue to the RPA process also afforded new opportunities to capitalize on inventory data already collected within the agency for new policy issues such as the use of the forest inventory data in quantifying carbon in forests and wood products. Planning and preparation for the 2010 RPA assessment continues the progress toward further integrating the analyses of renewable resources to support strategic planning and subnational resource assessments. The 2010 RPA assessment will incorporate global interactions that affect U.S. domestic resource conditions and trends, extend the ability to imbed climate effects in the RPA resource analyses, and use a broader range of scenarios to better address uncertainty of future projections. These large-scale natural resource assessments conducted at the national scale offer a wealth of information for additional analyses at the national scale and for subnational assessments.

You should gain an understanding of:

Natural resources assessments covering timber, wildlife, water, recreation and range and impact of climate change on forests.

Climate change legislation and RPA assessment framework and scenario criteria and selection.

Carbon accounting and mitigation opportunities, and implications to adaption.