The Forest Service is responsible for managing our Nation's public forests and grasslands. These aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems encompass tropical and boreal forests, vast grasslands, over 200,000 miles of fishable streams, and approximately one-third of our public wetland and riparian resources. They provide drinking water, sustainable flows of commodities, and habitat for thousands of animal species; hundreds of migratory birds, mountain lions, buffalo, wild horses and burros, fish species with important subsistence, recreation, and commercial values; and hundreds of rare plants, fish, and wildlife.
Our mission is to sustain the health, productivity, and diversity of these resources to help us meet the needs of present and future generations. The phrase, "Caring for the Land and Serving People" expresses the spirit of this mission and reflects our commitment to working with the American people to better steward our natural resources. We recently outlined a natural resources agenda for the Forest Service that emphasizes watershed health and restoration, sustainable forest ecosystem management, recreation, and forest roads. These priorities will be addressed in the coming years. Economic prosperity and social well-being are inextricably linked to managing healthy public lands. We simply cannot meet the needs of people without securing the health of the land.
Improving and protecting the health of the land while providing benefits to people continues to be our priority in strategic planning, budgeting, and management. In fiscal year (FY) 1997, we have taken great strides to improve water quality and quantity; protect and restore riparian areas, forests and grasslands; increase partnerships; and promote environmentally sound recreation. For example, as part of our Recreational Fisheries Conservation Plan, we expanded partnerships with agencies and local communities helping us to improve 15,827 acres and 2,898 miles of aquatic habitat critical to recreational fishing. We also restored forest resources by treating over 1.5 million acres for insect and disease infestations. Last year, we worked with State and private landowners to monitor 54 percent of forested lands, compared to 40 percent in 1996.
These are clearly steps in the right direction. But we must do more. Through implementation of the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) and the Forest Service natural resources agenda, we will expand the number of riparian acres restored, significantly reduce hazardous fuels on NFS lands, and restore native vegetation on rangelands by eliminating noxious weeds. If we increase our use of recycled fibers in paper to 45 percent and in housing to 20 percent, we could offset timber harvest by about 1.5 million cubic feet per year. That is enough wood to build about 800,000 homes.
A key to our success in implementing our agenda will be our work with the people who use and care about the land. As the Chief of the Forest Service, I look forward to building upon our collaborative efforts.