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Open Space Conservation
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Animated image showing a series of aerial images showing changes that have occurred along a small portion of the Blackhills National Forest Boundary from 1969 until 1993.
This series of aerial images shows changes that have occurred along a small portion of the Blackhills National Forest Boundary from 1969 until 1993.

Click here to see more examples of the loss of open space.

Open space is vital to our health, economy and well-being.  Public and private lands, including wilderness and working land, provide public benefits and ecosystem services we all need and enjoy, including:

  • Clean water
  • Natural flood control
  • Wildlife habitat and biodiversity
  • Recreation and relaxation
  • Timber and other forest products
  • Jobs
An estimated 6,000 acres of open space are lost each day, a rate of 4 acres per minute. Looking ahead, the Forests on the Edge project estimates that 57 million acres of private forest lands could experience sizeable increases in housing density by 2030. Public forests are also affected -- the National Forests on the Edge publication estimates that 21 million acres of private rural lands near national forests and grasslands will experience substantial housing density increases by 2030.

In 2007 the Forest Service has developed an Open Space Conservation Strategy to identify how the agency can best help conserve open space, with an emphasis on partnerships and collaborative approaches. The agency is interested in addressing the effects of the loss of open space on private forests; on National Forests and Grasslands and the surrounding landscape; and on forests in cities, suburbs, and towns.

The Forest Service recognizes that it is not the only contributor to open space conservation; it is only one among many.  The Forest Service also acknowledges that the agency’s role in open space conservation is not to regulate development or land use, but is to provide expertise, resources, information, and programs. 

For more information about open space and current Forest Service conservation tools, view our publication Cooperating Across Boundaries and the Resources and Tools page.