Rangeland Resource Trends in the United States: A Technical Document Supporting the 2000 USDA Forest Service RPA Assessment

John E. Mitchell
U.S. Department of Agriculture
Forest Service


This report documents trends in America’s rangelands as required by the Renewable Resources Planning Act of 1974. The Forest Service has conducted assessments of the rangeland situation for 30 years. Over this period, rangeland values and uses have gradually shifted from concentrating upon forage production and meeting increasing demand for red meat to a more broad-based understanding under a framework of sustainable resource management. The total extent of rangeland will likely continue a trend of slow decline, but any changes will be small in relation to the total U.S. grazing land base of about 800 million acres. Lands enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program are not expected to affect this trend. Data from various sources indicate that range condition has been fairly static over the past decade. Non-indigenous weed invasions have offset advances in rangeland health. Regardless, the productive capacity of U.S. rangelands is not expected to degrade because of slowly decreasing livestock utilization and possible advances in biotechnology. Trends in the number of people with adequate technical skills to manage rangelands and conduct research need closer attention.