U.S. Congress Revises Resource Management Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

The Forest and Rangeland Renewable Resources Planning Act of 1974 directed the Forest Service to assess resource needs and capabilities, define alternatives, and recommend a program of management and investment.

Summary of Event

On August 17, 1974, President Gerald R. Ford signed the Forest and Rangeland Renewable Resources Planning Act (RPA) into law. The RPA resulted in the first complete legislative revision of the Forest Service’s mission since the early 1900’s. The act addressed the need for an assessment of forest inventories and of the demands for products and services of forests and rangelands. Forest and Rangeland Renewable Resources Planning Act (1974) Natural resources, conservation Forest management Forest Service, U.S. [kw]U.S. Congress Revises Resource Management (Aug. 17, 1974) [kw]Congress Revises Resource Management, U.S. (Aug. 17, 1974) [kw]Resource Management, U.S. Congress Revises (Aug. 17, 1974) Forest and Rangeland Renewable Resources Planning Act (1974) Natural resources, conservation Forest management Forest Service, U.S. [g]North America;Aug. 17, 1974: U.S. Congress Revises Resource Management[01650] [g]United States;Aug. 17, 1974: U.S. Congress Revises Resource Management[01650] [c]Environmental issues;Aug. 17, 1974: U.S. Congress Revises Resource Management[01650] [c]Laws, acts, and legal history;Aug. 17, 1974: U.S. Congress Revises Resource Management[01650] Humphrey, Hubert H. McGuire, John

Although the public supported the measure once it was enacted, it started as one of the most controversial issues in land management. Industry pressure for more attention to timber management was amplified by increasing criticism from economists about the inefficient allocation of public resources in national forest management. Timber prices rose to extreme heights in 1969, resulting in public concern. The timber industry Timber industry used the price increases as an opportunity to call congressional attention to the fact that a steady supply of timber was needed and that the issue of timber management needed to be placed on the legislative agenda.

In 1973, President Richard M. Nixon Nixon, Richard M. [p]Nixon, Richard M.;environmental policy appointed the President’s Advisory Panel on Timber and the Environment (PAPTE), an advisory board, to make recommendations concerning timber-management problems as they related to environmental concerns. The PAPTE called for a comprehensive forest development plan. The RPA, incorporating a complex planning process, resulted from the congressional attempt to balance industry needs with environmentalists’ concerns about the Forest Service.

Under the RPA, the Forest Service is required to prepare and publish a revised program every five years and a revised assessment every ten years, both of which must be responsive to changes anticipated in the years ahead. The assessment explains the agencies and the regulations involved in forest resource activities. It presents an evaluation of the opportunities available to improve the yield of goods and services produced from forest resources. The goal of the assessment is to provide a factual basis from which to formulate future renewable resource management programs. In order to do this, the assessment provides information on projected population and income levels; forest and rangeland area; location and type of vegetative cover; supply and demand conditions of forest resources; social, economic, and environmental implications of projected demands and supplies; and opportunities for responding to the implications of such projections.

The program component of the RPA is similar to an environmental impact statement. It provides a physical inventory and a description of the overall resource situation, including the problems and opportunities, potential supply and probable demand, prices at various output levels, and anticipated impacts. With the assessment as a foundation, the secretary of agriculture recommends a program of action for the Forest Service to employ in order to solve the problems and to take advantage of the opportunities identified in the assessment.

The Resources Planning Act requires the president to submit the program and a statement of the national forest management policy to Congress. In doing so, the president declares a budget request and provides justification. Congress will then either accept or amend the president’s program in the consideration of funding. This structural process allows for checks and balances between Congress and the president.

In the past, the Forest Service had failed to receive increased funding from the government’s executive branch. The RPA legislation was viewed as an opportunity for the Forest Service to submit its funding proposals directly to Congress and the public. The public was invited to examine these reports and to recommend changes or additions. The chief forester, John McGuire, lauded for his ability to negotiate, achieved his first significant accomplishment with the passage of the RPA. The new legislation provided an opportunity for the chief forester to employ his mediation skills with the public.

While the RPA did appeal to the public, it did not eliminate all public disapproval of Forest Service activities. The caustic debates during the late 1960’s and 1970’s over the Forest Service program of clear-cutting Clear-cutting[Clear cutting] timber in the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia resulted in a judicial decision to halt all clear-cutting, ruling that new national forest management legislation would be needed. As a result, the National Forest Management Act National Forest Management Act (1976) (NFMA) was passed by Congress in 1976. The act demanded that clear-cuts be reduced and resource management guidelines be set up for controversial management practices.

With the passage of the National Forest Management Act in 1976 came changes in the RPA. The NFMA made significant amendments to the RPA, resulting in a restructuring of the planning process. It set new standards for national forest resource planning. The function of the RPA was expanded beyond that of a mere budget-setting device. A comprehensive plan would be developed and used for a whole forest and would not include separate plans for land and timber use. The Forest Service adopted planning rules that required the RPA program to define regional objectives for forest-range grazing, minerals, timber, water, and other resources. In turn, these objectives would be applied to each individual forest by the regional plans. The NFMA also called for an economic classification of specifically recorded alternative management strategies for each land area, with a balanced consideration of the potential combination of all goods and services produced from the land. It essentially mandated multiple-use planning for all forests.


The 1974 RPA and the 1976 NFMA were passed at a time when the Forest Service was concerned about the inconsistencies in the forest-planning process. These acts gave the agency a legislative mandate to administer the forest in ways that maximized the advantages from sustained-yield multiple-use production, while still considering the potential production of the land. The RPA became a pivotal policy in the history of U.S. forestry legislation, along with the NFMA the primary law governing U.S. forest policy. This legislative achievement is important, but the ultimate meaning is unclear, because Congress did not identify priorities. The RPA is considered to be consistent with most congressional legislation, because it promotes compromise rather than radical change. The fact that the initial act defines procedures rather than specific goals is a major characteristic of 1970’s legislation. It directs land-managing agencies to consider all factors, but it does not provide a framework for prioritizing them.

Since 1974, there have been several assessments conducted under the RPA. According to the Forest Service, figures concerning demand and supply of renewable resources depend primarily on population growth, income levels, economic activities, changes in technology and institutions, the cost of energy, availability of capital, and the investment levels in resource management and utilization.

The long-term trend of the U.S. economy has been continued growth; the population and the economy are expected to continue to grow in the future. Renewable resources in the United States meet the needs of nearly fifty million more people than when the RPA was first instituted, and overall increases in demand are greater than the levels that are supplied using 1990’s management methods. As the country continues to grow, society’s view of renewable resources is likely to change to reflect the problems, opportunities, and management of these resources. Forest and Rangeland Renewable Resources Planning Act (1974) Natural resources, conservation Forest management Forest Service, U.S.

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Bowes, Michael D., and John V. Krutilla. Multiple-Use Management: The Economics of Public Forestlands. Washington, D.C.: Resources for the Future, 1989. Examines forest management standards in conjunction with economic values. Provides a comprehensive explanation of the factors involved in multiple-use management programs.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Clary, David A. Timber and the Forest Service. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1986. The author examines the history of the Forest Service with specific focus on the agency’s timber management policies. He argues that, while the Forest Service exists in a bureaucratic culture and is often criticized by the public, it has nevertheless been successful in timber management. An insightful and scholarly work.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Cubbage, Frederick W., Jay O’Laughlin, and Charles S. Bullock, III. Forest Resource Policy. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1993. Textbook on forest resource policy that focuses on the political process and resource management. Contains appendixes for reference to the laws affecting forest resources. Excellent bibliography.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Ellefson, Paul V. Forest Resources Policy. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1991. Describes in detail the forest policy process, the people involved, and forest legislation and programs.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Koontz, Tomas M. Federalism in the Forest: National Versus State Natural Resource Policy. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press, 2002. Contrasts federal and state forest management policies and examines their effectiveness.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">President’s Advisory Panel on Timber and the Environment. Report. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1973. Contains the major recommendations made by the PAPTE to the president as well as a discussion of its findings. Technical but informative.

Launch of the First Earth Resources Technology Satellite

U.S. Congress Expands Eastern Wilderness

U.S. Congress Limits Forest Clear-Cutting

Arnold and Gottlieb Publish The Wise Use Agenda

Spotted Owl Prompts Old-Growth Timber Controversy

Clinton Convenes the Forest Summit

Categories: History