Breath of Clarity

Desired Conditions- Impacts of Recreational Use

Examples of Desired Conditions in a National Forest:

1) Use areas are capable of sustaining recreation visitors while also conserving the surrounding water, soil, vegetation and wildlife.

2) An ecologically, socially, and economically sustainable system of trails provides high quality recreation experiences across a range of settings for each use-type. A full range of recreation settings are available, ranging from primitive, challenging backcountry areas to road settings easily travelled and convenient for connecting communities to the forest.

3) Accurate high quality visitor information is available through multiple sources, including electronic media and on-site information boards, to enhance visitor safety and experiences.

Comment by Fenton Kay:

Mary, don’t forget that National Forests are subject to non-recreation activities as well as recreational activities. How ill your desired condition fit within a mandate to provide resources such as timber or grazing as well as recreation?

My Comment:

Great point.

Yes, national forest resource managers are still mandated to conduct operations with a multiple-use approach. The managers can use zones to designate certain areas as less sensitive compared to others. The least sensitive areas can be where the timber and grazing takes place. Then, the areas characterized as slightly more sensitive can be designated for recreational activity with close adherence to my first desired condition. While it is difficult to conserve in areas that are open to timber and grazing, it is less difficult to conserve in areas that are also open to recreational activity. Achieving the second desired condition of providing a range of recreation activities is useful to make it so the same type of impact is not being inflicted on the terrain and waters from just having few types of activity. In tandem with the education initiative I described in the third desired condition, a national forest should still be able to allow recreational activity in areas characterized with a a medium-sensitive grade. Finally, the most sensitive areas would be closed off to resource gathering and recreational activity. While the timber and grazing present additional challenge, making it so that the recreational activity needs to be in the medium-sensitive areas instead of the least sensitive, it is still possible to conserve the forest insofar as the management strategy and implementation is excellent.

In a report about achieving maximum gross happiness in the Bhutan national forests, the authors mentioned managing natural capital through design and implementation of specific local interventions requires a fine level of detail, where the services, people’s dependencies on them, and the impacts of alternations to forest ecosystems are identified and prioritized locally (Sears et al. 2017). However, by 2015, only 6% of Bhutan’s forest area, less than half of the targeted area for commercial forest production was designated in 20 forest management units for commercial timber production (Sears et al. 2017). Much more of the targeted area for commercial forest production needs to be under a management system that heavily considers local public input. While managing national forests with the mandated multiple-use approach, it is important to keep in mind that resources will deplete if regulations only encompass a small section of the targeted area for commercial forest production.

Also, while the Department of Forest and Park Services develops a management plan for each unit, the Natural Resources Development Corporation Limited actually oversees the harvest (Sears et al. 2017). It caught my eye that one agency is responsible for creating the management plan, while the other one is responsible for implementing it. The authors mentioned there is concern about excessive harvest outside the areas of forest management units (Sears et al. 2017). With that being said, it is crucial to have proper enforcement in place to guarantee logging is not taking place outside of the zones designated for it.


Sears, R., Phuntsho, S., Dorji, T., Choden, K., Norbu, N., & Baral, H. 2017. “Forest ecosystem services and the pillars of Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness”. Center for International Forestry Research. pp: 9-13. Accessed May 11, 2021.

Comment by Sabrina Hetzel:

Excellent job stating conservation and sustainable desired conditions! I also like how you included a range of recreation areas that will accommodate those with physical abilities by road. This is such an important topic of development that is sometimes overlooked in recreational areas. Including both electronic and information boards is also very helpful in helping visitors be well-informed before/during their outdoor experience. Great job!