Objective. Government policy has long linked resource production with economic development in surrounding rural communities. The purpose of this article is to examine how the USDA Forest Service's (USFS) resource-based, rural development policies have shifted due to economic restructuring and environmental challenges to the “management” of nature.

Methods. Historical data was gathered on USFS timber harvests and policies toward forest-dependent communities. Data was also gathered through interviews and participant-observation on a USFS-supported, locally planned ecotourism project.

Results. USFS rural development policies have shifted from predominantly providing federally determined, sustained timber harvests in the industrial era to increasingly emphasizing local, amenity-based entrepreneurship and economic diversification in the post-industrial era.

Conclusions. USFS rural development policies and resource production have been de-coupled. However, amenity-based development may depend both on amenity migrants and sustained commitment from external sources to support local initiative, given limited entrepreneurship in rural areas long dependent on high-wage extraction and manufacturing.