Those who live near national forests are both potential forest visitors and neighbors who feel the impact of many forest management decisions. This paper provides some insights about those proximate populations. It does so by measuring the proportion of national forest land within each county and then combining that with an analysis of the patterns of demographic change over the past several decades. Because there is considerable overlap between counties that contain national forests and those designated as recreational, high amenity, and retirement destination counties, demographic trends in such counties are compared. A total of 757 of the 3,141 U.S. counties contain national forest land. More than 66.1 million people resided in these counties in 2000, some 24% of the U.S. total. The population in national forest counties grew by 19% between 1990 and 2000 compared to 13% for the nation as a whole. Most of the population gain in national forest areas resulted from net in-migration. Population gains in national forest counties were slightly smaller than those in recreational and natural amenity counties and significantly less than those in retirement destination counties; however, the gains were considerably larger than those in other counties. National forest counties that are metropolitan have significantly more Hispanics than other metropolitan counties but fewer Blacks and Whites. Nonmetropolitan national forest counties contain a much larger proportion of non-Hispanic Whites than their metropolitan counterparts, a finding consistent with that for nonmetropolitan counties in general. Knowledge about the changing size and demographic structure of the population in national forest counties has particular relevance to Forest Service planners and policymakers.



Publication Date


Journal Title

Proceedings: National Workshop on Recreation Research, Pacific Northwest Research Station


US Department of Agriculture

Document Type

Conference Proceeding