Stemming the tide of open space loss requires working at different scales —nationally, regionally, and locally—and tailoring approaches to fit geographic regions.
The Forest Service delivers a wealth of knowledge and expertise in natural resource management, scientific research, technical assistance, and grant program administration, through three primary branches:
These tools and resources have been used to supply useful data and information to local governments, help fund research and conservation efforts, and support private forest land owners with financial and technical assistance to better improve the management of their land.
Forest Service scientists in the Research and Development branch work at seven research stations and numerous partner universities throughout the country to study the social, ecological, and biological components of natural resource conservation and management.
Researchers have produced many scientific publications and resource assessments that give an in-depth picture of the consequences of land use changes nationwide, both nationally and regionally.
- Resource Planning Act (RPA) Assessments
- Northern Forest Futures Project
- Southern Forest Futures Project
- Urban Forests, Environmental Quality, and Human Health
- People & Their Environments/Chicago Urban Field Station
- New York City Urban Field Station
- Baltimore Urban Field Station
- Philadelphia Urban Field Station
- Integrating Human & Natural Systems in Urban Environments
- Eastern Forest Environmental Threat Assessment Center
- Human Dimensions - Social and Economic Values in Natural Resource Planning
- Forest and Woodland Ecosystems Science Program
- Ultra-Ex Project (Urban Long Term Research Area) – “Future of Urban Open Space”
- Goods, Services, and Values
- Communities and Forest Management
- Urban Wildland Interactions Team
- Green Cities Research Alliance
- Ecosystem Services
- Western Wildland Environmental Threat Center (WWETAC)
- San Juan ULTRA-Ex (Urban Long Term Research Area) – “Future of a Tropical City”
- Silvis Lab – University of Wisconsin
- Family Forest Research Team– University of Massachusetts-Amherst
- Sustaining Family Forest Initiative – Yale University
- Conservation Development Research Team - University of Colorado
- Green Cities: Good Health – University of Washington
- Forests, People, Fire – Oregon State University
Open Space Research Publications sponsored by the Forest Service
The State and Private Forestry (S&PF) organization of the USDA Forest Service reaches across the boundaries of National Forests to bring forest management assistance and expertise to a diversity of landowners, including small woodlot, tribal, state, and federal, through cost-effective, non-regulatory partnerships. S&PF is the federal leader in providing technical and financial assistance to landowners and resource managers to help sustain the Nation’s forests and protect communities and the environment from wildland fires.
The following programs are administered in partnership with state and local governments and other partners conserving open space and keeping working forests on the landscape.
International Institute of Tropical Forestry
Enables the purchase of conservation easements to protect environmentally important forests.
The Community Forests and Open Space Program
The Community Forest grant program authorizes the Forest Service to provide financial assistance to local governments, Tribal governments, and nonprofits to acquire land and establish community forests.
The Forest Stewardship Program
Provides technical and financial assistance to forest landowners to help them develop and implement stewardship plans. The plans help landowners manage their forests sustainably so their open space continues to provide multiple benefits to the public.
The Forest Service is exploring national opportunities to advance markets and payments for ecosystem services with help from partners to encourage broader thinking and collaboration that stimulates market-based conservation and stewardship through projects like Forests to Faucets, Willamette Partnership, Denver Water Partnership, and Carbon Capital Fund.
Fire and Aviation Management
Supports and participates in numerous actions for forest landscape restoration and the protection of communities from wildfire. Some of these activities include: developing the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy, Firewise, Fire Adapted Communities, Ready Set Go, and many other programs and working groups to increase awareness of the need for wildfire mitigation, protect and manage wildland-urban interface areas.
Forest Health and Protection
Conducts annual reports on state and national pest conditions, administers cost-share grants to states to assist landowners in protecting and managing their forests from insects and diseases, currently working on an updated National Strategy and Implementation Plan for Invasive Species Management.
Office of Tribal Relations
Office of Tribal Relations staff provides oversight of Forest Service programs and policies that may affect Tribes, encouraging and supporting respectful, supportive government-to-government relationships that strengthen external and internal coordination and communication about tribal concerns and the Forest Service mission.
Programs are directed at developing environmental literacy in the American public which, in turn, contributes to the development of sound environmental policies. CE is helping develop the Children’s Forests program to help with National Forests, The CE staff, in collaboration with the AD council, developed Discover the Forest that acts as a mapping and planning tool for family outdoor recreation activities around specified locations.
Woody Biomass Utilization
The Forest Service is researching ways that the by-products of forest management activities, woody biomass, can be utilized in new products and biofuels to improve restoration and fuel treatments and make forests more resilient to climate change and wildfire risks.
State and Private Forestry also shares the agency’s research and expertise with the public by creating publications and toolkits that explore the effects of housing development on our private forest lands, sustaining our urban parks and open spaces, as well as how we can better collaborate with partners across jurisdictional boundaries.
- Forests on the Edge
- Sustaining America’s Urban Trees and Forests
- Private Forests, Public Benefits
- Cooperating Across Boundaries
- State Forest Action Plans
The National Forest System manages over 190 million acres of public land that is a vital component of our nation’s green infrastructure. In some counties, up to 80 percent of the land base is in federal ownership. A strong relationship between local communities and national forest staff is vital.
Local land use plans and development patterns have a direct impact on public lands and the Forest Service’s ability to manage the resources. Similarly, Forest Service management decisions can affect the quality of life for its neighboring communities.
The Forest Service strives to work in partnership with neighboring landowners and communities along the National Forest boundaries. The data and technical expertise provided by the agency can help make more informed land management decisions. If you are interested in working with a nearby national forest, contact the local district ranger or forest supervisor.
National Forest System Activities Supporting the Open Space Conservation Strategy
- The Lands and Realty Management program facilitates land acquisitions, exchanges, donations, boundary adjustments and rights of way for trails and forest roads. The Land and Water Conservation Fund is vital to these land acquisitions.
- The Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program helps neighboring landowners and land management agencies work together on watershed and forest restoration projects.
- Managing areas of special importance such as Wilderness, Wild and Scenic Rivers, Greenways grasslands, and National Monuments.
- National Forests support and manage outfitting and guiding opportunities on federal lands.
- Children’s Forests are used to support youth outreach education and get “More Kids in the Woods” appreciating nature and conservation. Programs have been developed on several National Forests including: Chugach, Colville, Coronado, Deschutes, San Bernardino, and Mount St. Helen’s National Volcanic Monument.
- Partnerships with Federal Highway Administration’s Eco-Logical program, State Departments of Transportation and others on transportation projects that improve public safety and wildlife and hydrologic connectivity on National Forest Lands.
- Involved in Landscape Conservation Cooperatives and other landscape conservation dialogs including the Greater Yellowstone Coordinating Committee, Blackfoot Challenge, Chesapeake Bay Restoration, Longleaf Pine Restoration Initiative, Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, Four Forests Restoration Initiative, Denver Water Partnership.
- Utilizing the Wyden Amendment to enter into cooperative agreements and the Secure Rural Schools Act funds to complete restoration projects with neighbors and partners.
How communities and National Forests can work together to Conserve Open Space
- Communicate! Share information about current and potential land use decisions.
- Include each other in planning sessions, whether it is for forest plans, local comprehensive plans, or new development proposals.
- Where appropriate, invite local Forest Service staff to help identify conservation priorities or potential resource issues.
- Develop community protection plans to reduce the risk of wildfires and include local ranger districts in the process.
- Coordinate a community group to create green infrastructure or strategic conservation plans that identify ideal places for recreation, conservation, or development in your region.
- Protect working farms, forests, and ranches with conservation easements through partnerships with land trusts, State and local governments, and Forest Legacy.
For contacts and other information about your local national forest or national grassland, visit www.fs.fed.us and search under “Find a Forest or Grassland.”