A term and concept of long-standing debate. At least three different ideas are involved: (1) different uses of adjacent sub-areas which together form a composite multiple-use area, (2) the alternation in time of different uses on the same area, and (3) more than one use of an area at one time. In the first two ideas it is implicit that direct competition between uses is avoided by alternating them in space or in time. The third idea involves simultaneous use of one space and must deal with satisfactory resolution of conflicting activities, and incompatible uses by different groups of different size and economic, social, and political influence.
Where spatially coincident uses are involved at a given time, conflicts between resource users will almost always occur and the concept of such forms of multiple use should be realistically interpreted as a dominant use with secondary uses integrated only in so far as they are compatible with the first. However, where the idea of incompatibility relates to whether the productivity or yield of a single resource has been maximized, multiple use can perhaps be validated in terms other than single-resource production efficiency. To the single purpose resource user, multiple-use may seem inefficient or economically ruinous. Under this concept the aim of resource use allocation is to maximize the national well being, promoting general social and economic prosperity. Social needs are not necessarily best served by maximizing the production of a single resource (or even by maximizing the production of several resources) but by an over-all mix of total national resource uses that brings the greatest social and economic benefits.
In US FS 2005, "Multiple Use" was the management of all the various renewable surface resources of the National Forest System so that they are utilized in the combination (single) that will best meet the needs of the American people. Also making the most judicious use of the land for some or all of these resources or related services over areas large enough to provide sufficient latitude for periodic adjustments in the use to conform to changing needs and conditions; also that some lands will be used for less than all of the resources; and harmonious and coordinated management of the various resources, each with the other, without impairment of the productivity of the land, with consideration being given to the relative values of the various resources, and not necessarily the combination of uses that will give the greatest dollar return or the greatest unit output (Multiple Use-Sustained-Yield Act 1960, U.S.C. 528-531). Consistent with the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA), multiple-use includes Federal energy and mineral resources underlying National Forest System lands. Exploration and production of those resources is considered one of the "principle or major uses" under FLPMA which, under Sec. 202(e)(1) of that Act, are to be given special consideration in the planning process.