Flather, Curtis H., Stephen J. Brady, and Michael S. Knowles
Wildlife Resource Trends in the United States: A technical document supporting the 2000 RPA Assessment
Gen. Tech. Rep. RMRSGTR-33
: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station
Ft. Collins, CO
Original Date

This report documents trends in wildlife resources for the nation as required by the Renewable Resources Planning Act (RPA) of 1974. The report focuses on recent historical trends in wildlife as one indicator of ecosystem health across the United States and updates wildlife trends presented in previous RPA Assessments. The report also shows short- and long-term projections of some wildlife for documenting expected trajectories of resource change. National trends in four attributes of wildlife resources, including habitat, population, harvest, and users, set the context within which regionspecific trends are presented. The data for this analysis came largely from information that currently exists within Forest Service and cooperating state and federal agency inventories. The report concludes with a synthesis of these trends as they relate to the concept of resource health. We highlight those trends that appear to indicate favorable, uncertain, or degraded resource conditions in an attempt to identify resource situations that warrant policy and management attention.

Key paragraph relating to US forests:
Forests in the United States are extensive and diverse with nearly a third of the landbase supporting forest cover. This amounts to about 70% of the total land area in forest cover that was present at the time of European settlement (Powell and others 1993). Forest land is defined as land at least 10% stocked by forest trees of any size, including land that formerly had such cover and will be naturally or artificially regenerated to trees (USDA Forest Service 1981). It has been estimated that 90% of the resident or common migrant vertebrate species in the United States use forest habitats to meet at least part of their life requisites. [ USDA Forest Service. 1979. The 1979 wildlife and fish data base. Data base stored at the Rocky Mountain Research Station]

Key senences relating to big game:
Deer populations (including both white-tailed and mule deer) have undergone the greatest increase with 8.1 million individuals being added to the total population of reporting states since 1975. Although there have been recent population gains among big game species, the rate of increase appears to have declined during the 1990s for all species except elk and black bear. In the 11 states reporting elk trends, populations have increased by more than 70%. As noted by Peek (1995), elk now occupy more suitable habitat and are more numerous than at any time since the turn of the century. The trend in black bear populations (+76% in 18 reporting states) is consistent with the findings of Vaughan and Pelton (1995) who found that of 40 states reporting estimates of black bear populations, 27 had increasing trends and only two had declining trends.

[Bibliography references are available in the complete document which is online.]

  • Bookwood Historical Collection, Star Lake
  • UW Madison/Wis Hist Soc
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