National Forest Socioeconomic Indicators: FAQ

Explore the socioeconomic conditions in counties surrounding National Forests.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the National Forest Socioeconomic Indicators tool?

The National Forest Socioeconomic Indicators reporting tool is a free, web-based tool created by Headwaters Economics to help land managers, government agency planners, businesses, and others explore socioeconomic conditions in communities near every National Forest in the nation.

Users can explore local data on economics, demographics, land use, economic sectors, and other topics. Reports can be created to compare or aggregate different areas.

The National Forest Socioeconomic Indicator Tool is based on reports from two previously-developed tools: the Economic Profile System (EPS) and Populations at Risk (PAR).

EPS and PAR use data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Bureau of the Census, U.S. Department of Commerce, and other credible public sources. These tools are used by federal land managers, state and local elected officials, planners, city managers, journalists, and researchers in many fields.

What is the purpose of the tool?

National Forest Socioeconomic Indicators makes socioeconomic data accessible and useful for Forest Service planning. The reporting tool is free and an ideal solution for Forest NEPA project documentation at all levels, from forest plans to categorical exclusions to large landscapes. The tool delivers county and Forest-level socioeconomic indicators that are defensible (accurate, relevant, and reliable) and establish appropriate context for monitoring National Forest contributions and impacts on surrounding communities.

Agency staff and other users can use the tool to run consistent reports over time, and tracking changes on individual or multiple National Forests.

What is the geographic scope?

The reports are available for each National Forest unit in the contiguous United States and Alaska. The reports contain county-level data. When the tool is used to generate a report for a National Forest unit, the output report contains data for each individual county associated with the Forest as well as aggregate data for the group of counties. The default list of counties associated with each National Forest unit is preset using a nation-wide economic contribution model that identifies counties economically associated with National Forests.

A primary advantage of the National Forest Socioeconomic Indicators report is standardized analysis using continuously updated data for preset areas for each National Forest. With the tool’s user interface, agency staff and other users can quickly reference their National Forest(s) of interest and run reports that are spatially relevant, without any requirement to identify administrative boundaries or socioeconomic geographies. The preset counties also are easy to modify using the tool’s user interface. For example, counties can be added or removed from the default list.

How much does it cost to use the National Forest Socioeconomic Indicators tool?

The reporting tool is free to use. With the help of our partners, the BLM, US Forest Service, the Kresge Foundation, and the Kendeda Fund, Headwaters Economics developed National Forest Socioeconomic Indicators to improve agency and public access to high-quality socioeconomic data.

How often is National Forest Socioeconomic Indicators updated?

Headwaters Economics processes newly released datasets continuously. The latest available numbers are reflected in National Forest Socioeconomic Indicators reports within a maximum of 90 days after publication by each individual data source. There are multiple data sources in National Forest Socioeconomic Indicators, each with a different update schedule. This page shows the update frequency and timing per data source.

How should I cite data from National Forest Socioeconomic Indicators reports?

Headwaters Economics recommends that you cite data from National Forest Socioeconomic Indicators reports using the citation provided at the bottom of each Data and Graphics page within the report. For example: U.S. Department of Commerce. 2018. Census Bureau, American Community Survey Office, Washington, D.C.