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Threats to At-Risk Species in America’s Private Forests: A Forests on the Edge Report


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America’s private forests harbor thousands of species – from butterflies, bears, birds and bats; to salmon, snails and salamanders that inhabit streams and wetlands; to flowers, trees and shrubs that feed and protect wildlife and enrich human lives. Many native animals and plants found in private forests nationwide are at risk of decline or extinction, in part because of impacts of increasing housing development. The effects of development on at-risk species on private forests are intensified by additional impacts from fire, insects and disease.

Key Points Covered

  • Over 4,600 native plant and animal species associated with private forests in the United States are at risk of decline or extinction.
  • Sixty percent of at-risk plant and animal species in the contiguous United States are associated with private forests.
  • Most of the 100 watersheds predicted to experience the greatest increase in housing density on private forest land are in southeastern states and contain private forests with high densities of at-risk species.
  • In the Southeast, much of the Southwest and along California’s Sierra Nevada range, wildfire is likely to affect forest habitats within watersheds where the greatest varieties of at-risk species reside.
  • Conservation actions can reduce impacts on wildlife and plant species already at risk, while supporting compatible development of housing. A few examples include:
    • Wildlife tunnels under highways
    • Increased awareness of the negative impacts of free-ranging cats and other pets
    • Clustered housing developments that incorporate environmental considerations and help maintain open space
  • This report updates methodology and findings of a previous Forest on the Edge study of development impacts on at-risk species habitats


Maps for Threats to At-Risk Species in America’s Private Forests


Stein, S.M.; Carr, M.A.; McRoberts, R.E.; Mahal, L.G. 2010. Threats to At-Risk Species in America’s Private Forests. Gen. Tech. Rep. NRS-73. Newtown Square, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northern Research Station. 20 p.