Wilderness Crunch: Northern States Feel it Most

We love the outdoors at Mountainfilm in Telluride, but a new study, “Outdoor Recreation in the Northern United States," shows that America's growing population and increasing interest in the outdoors is straining state and federal recreation areas, particularly in the northern states. The research, commissioned by the U.S. Forest Service, looks at 20 states in the north — extending from Maine to Minnesota and from Missouri to Maryland — and concludes that while the area’s population growth was less than the rest of the country, there will still be a conflict for land and water resources, especially when it comes to outdoor activities.

In this northern region, approximately 90 to 94 million people age 16 and older engage in outdoor recreation that ranges from hunting and fishing to orienteering, kayaking and mountain biking. The most popular activities are pretty tame: walking for pleasure, family gatherings outdoors, viewing/ photographing natural scenery, visiting outdoor nature centers,gardening or landscaping, and picnicking.

According to the United States Census Bureau, these northern states are densely populated in comparison to other parts of the U.S. — home to more people per square kilometer than many countries in Europe — which amplifies the pressure on federal land use. Northern residents average 1.19 acres of federal forest per person right now, but by 2060 that number will shrink to .88 acres per person, lower than the national average and all other regions in the U.S. Less than 3 percent of federal land is in the North, and if the population continues to grow (and residents there continue to pursue outdoor activities), there will be a significant crunch for wilderness in these states.

Photo Credits: 

"Flathead Wild"

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