The benefits to American society that outdoor recreation provides are needed more today than ever before:
America spends $2 trillion dollars on crisis medical health care. Overweight, obesity, and physical inactivity are major risk factors for chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. Physical activity is an integral part of a healthy lifestyle, and outdoor recreation is the natural solution – a disease prevention solution – and part of the nation's existing wellness infrastructure.
The economic base of many communities is shifting as industries consolidate and relocate, and service and experience businesses rely on outdoor recreation for their customers and as quality of life attractions for employees.
Population growth and land development demand more environmental services from a decreasing and fragmented land base, yet people become less familiar with, and respectful of, natural landscapes and historic sites every year.
The increasingly urbanized and technology focused American population, including children, is losing touch with the contributions of public lands to the basic resources that affect their lives. Americans sense of place and national identity can be enhanced by experiencing historic sites and landscapes that represent the abundant natural and cultural heritage of the nation.
At the same time, there are unprecedented challenges to providing quality recreation:
Demographic shifts and lifestyle changes have greatly affected demand for recreation on National Forests and Grasslands. With 80% of our population living in cities, our country is the most urban it has ever been. For many, the only exposure to the natural environment is what they see on television and computer screens. Others find our existing recreation facilities and programs not in line with their cultural traditions.
Growth of retiree communities and other population shifts have created population centers close to many public lands. This has resulted in many of our forests being enjoyed as regional and municipal parks adding additional strain on visitor facilities, services, and natural settings.
The condition of our recreation and heritage assets has steadily diminished, resulting in a ballooning backlog of maintenance needs for recreation facilities, trails, and roads.
Unmanaged recreation has contributed to degraded recreation settings, damaged heritage sites, unacceptable resource impacts, and conflicts between users.
National economic conditions and mounting financial demands underscore the inadequacy of traditional funding sources to meet growing needs, yet user fees and private sector involvement to deliver services remain controversial to some.