The US Forest Service (USFS) was established to safeguard the nation’s water and timber resources. Over the last century, the USFS has developed significant expertise in watershed management in a wide variety of ecosystems types, ranging from high elevation alpine forests to extremely arid deserts and grasslands. Water security is a pressing issue in the Middle East, and the Forest Service has been actively engaged in working with many countries across the region on these and other issues over the past 20 years.
Although forest cover is not an obvious or dominant natural resource topic in the Middle East, the native forests, grasslands, and afforested areas that do exist are jeopardized by forest fires, health threats, slow rates of regeneration, and increasing loss of unique native species. Vegetative cover and water resources management are inextricably linked. Good practices in vegetative management present both opportunities (slowing the rate of desertification, creation of microclimates, water retention, erosion control) and challenges (afforested areas impacting groundwater availability, irrigation requirements) for natural resource managers.
Additional challenges for the resource base of the Middle East include invasive species, wildlife eradication, and institutional weaknesses that impact resource management. Like other protected areas around the world, those in the Middle East suffer similar threats, including recreation overuse, encroachment, and multiple - often competing - management objectives.