Recreational Facility Analysis

Recreation Facility Analysis (RFA) formerly RSFMP

Photograph of the Gird Point Lookout tower on the Bitterroot National Forest.

The national forests and grasslands of the US Forest Service’s Northern Region stretch from the prairies and badlands of the Dakotas, through eastern Montana’s rolling hills and isolated ponderosa pine woodlands, to the rugged mountains and steep timbered canyons in western Montana and northern Idaho. Twenty-five million acres provide for a multitude of uses with recreation opportunities as diverse as these lands.

While providing a wide array of recreation opportunities, some recreation sites on the national forests and grasslands are beginning to see the effects of time and years of use. Many of the Forest Service’s developed recreation sites were built some 30-50 years ago, and are reaching the end of their designed life. Visitor preferences as well as demographics throughout the Northern Rockies have also changed with some recreation sites now seeing infrequent visitation while others are seeing use and numbers expand. As our local communities continue to grow and recreation use and desires shift, the timing is right to assess and take a more strategic look at how we can optimize public enjoyment of developed recreation sites and services today and into the future.

Photograph of the Lake Como swimming area in Montana. What is RFA?

Recreation Facility Analysis (RFA) is an analysis process the Forest Service uses across the country to help national forests and grasslands manage a sustainable program that matches the developed recreation sites and experiences they offer with visitors’ desires and use.

RFA helps ensure that developed recreation sites make sense, considering the special features and characteristics that a forest or grassland has to offer. As a result of this analysis, and with the public providing feedback along the way, each forest and grassland can focus their investments of time, dollars and resources to be as responsive as possible to visitors’ needs.

RFA has strategic goals:
1.  Provide recreation opportunities best suited for the national forest/grassland;
2.  Operate and maintain recreation sites to meet national quality standards;
3.  Eliminate/reduce recreation site deferred maintenance.

A seven step process evaluates and prioritizes sites for action. The results are contained in a 5-year program of work that was developed with public feedback that helped ensure these actions are sound and responsive to visitor needs.

Steps in the Analysis Process

The RFA analysis process involves seven steps, each bringing a forest's or grassland's developed recreation sites in closer alignment with the forest or grasslands unique characteristics, projected recreation demand, visitor expectations and revenue. The following describes the steps involved. All National Forest and Grassland units in the Northern Region completed an RFA in 2008.

Public involvement is an important partof the Recreation Facility Analysis process. Steps of the process include:

  • Recreation site data preparation. Forests look at existing data for each site to ensure it is adequate for analysis. This step may require gathering more data.
  • Examination of trends in outdoor recreation (by the public in general and on each national forest specifically) along with the settings, special places, and opportunities a forest offers.
  • An analysis of how well a national forest's existing recreation sites meet public needs considering recreation trend analyses, community importance, and current program constraints (i.e. budget, time constraints, personnel, etc.)
  • Based on this initial analysis, the resulting proposed 5-year program of work is shared, reviewed, and discussed with the public.
  • Adjustments and changes are made to the proposed program of work as a result of public participation to produce a 5-year program of work for the recreation sites program for each national forest.
  • The program of work is reviewed annually, and revised as needed.

Photograph of hiking up to a lookout tower.

Where are we now?

In the Northern Region, all the Forests and Grasslands have completed the RFA analysis.  


More information and documents available for review can be found at:

Beaverhead-Deerlodge NF website:

Bitterroot NF website:

Clearwater NF website:

Custer NF website:

Dakota Prairie GL website:

Flathead NF website:

Gallatin NF website:

Helena NF website:

Idaho Panhandle NF website:

Kootenai NF website:

Lewis and Clark NF website: ( Info. available April 2007)

Lolo NF website:

Nez Perce NF website:

Please join us as we continue with this important effort to determine how we can optimize public enjoyment of developed recreation on the National Forests and Grasslands, today, and into the future! We look forward to hearing from you.