of both an environmentally conscious population and a huge growing economy is an enormous challenge. The interdependencies among the resource systems and the demands placed upon them are complex. Some problems and solutions are local in nature. Other problems are regional or global and will require a breadth of cooperation that has rarely been achieved in the past. For instance, local concerns such as toxic waste disposal and ambient levels of air pollution are now interspersed with regional concerns such as the effects of acid rain on lakes and forests and global issues such as climate change and loss of biological diversity. Incomplete scientific understanding of the nature and implications of these problems, international externalities that arise when pollutants are transmitted across political borders, and the absence of institutions for resolving international resource disputes greatly complicate the task of successfully meeting future resource challenges.
In a United States with a quarter of a billion people, an annual economy of $5 trillion, and constant technological changes, the nature as well as the magnitude of the nation's resource demands have changed dramatically from those of one to two centuries earlier. Although the variety of commodity outputs produced from U.S. renewable resources is still much in demand, the demand for their recreational and environmental outputs appears to have increased even more rapidly. Less relative emphasis is now placed on the direct economic benefits of putting the resources to productive uses; greater weight is being given to protecting free-flowing streams, wetlands, forests, wilderness, and wildlife because of their perceived contribution to the quality of life. The growth of discretionary income and leisure has contributed to an increase in the demand for outdoor recreation, which now is a major claimant on the nation's renewable natural resources. Resources once viewed as obstacles to economic progress until they were tamed or replaced are now recognized as essential to the diversity and quality of the environment and our recreational opportunities.
The challenge, then, is to balance potentially competitive and changing relative demands, both commodity and noncommodity, on our renewable resources, while ensuring that they are managed on a long-term sustainable basis.
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