The ForSAFE-VEG model was used to estimate atmospheric nitrogen deposition and climate effects on soil chemistry and ground vegetation in alpine and subalpine zones of the northern and central Rocky Mountains region in the USA from 1750 to 2500. Model simulations for a generalized site illustrated how the critical load of atmospheric nitrogen deposition could be estimated to protect plant biodiversity. The results appear reasonable compared with past model applications in northern Europe. Atmospheric N deposition critical loads estimated to protect plant biodiversity were 1 to 2 kg N/ha/year. This range could be greater, depending on the values selected for critical site-specific parameters (precipitation, temperature, soil chemistry, plant nutrient uptake, and any eventual harvest of biomass) and the amount of biodiversity change allowed.