Apply Knowledge Globally

90 years of indispensable international partnership

Group photo, from left to right: Alex Friend, John Parrotta, Chief Vicki Christiansen.
USDA Forest Service Deputy Chief Alex Friend (left), national research program leader for international science issues and newly elected IUFRO President John Parrotta (center), and Chief Vicki Christiansen (right) at the 2019 IUFRO Conference. USDA Forest Service photo by Jennifer Hayes.

WASHINGTON, DC—The USDA Forest Service has a long history of providing international aid through its International Programs office. Yet that's not the only international arm of the agency. Agency scientists share knowledge and best practices worldwide through a partnership with the International Union of Forest Research Organizations, more commonly known as IUFRO.

Established in 1892, IUFRO's mission is to advance research excellence and knowledge sharing as well as to foster development of science-based solutions to forest-related challenges. This nongovernmental organization focuses on solving these challenges for the benefit of forests and people on a global scale.

The Forest Service is world-renowned for its contributions to basic scientific knowledge and cutting-edge applications through the use of long-term, established research projects, a committed land base of experimental forests and ranges, and ties to land managers across the nation and around the world. Our efforts have greatly benefited from our scientists’ collaboration with colleagues from around the world made possible by the IUFRO’s global platform for research cooperation. 

Forest Service scientists have been involved as IUFRO officeholders for nearly a century, leading networks of scientists from around the world on research topics across the full spectrum of forest and wood science. By partnering with the organization, our scientists have the ability to be at the forefront of science-based forest management, both at home and abroad. 

Forest science collaboration is indispensable to the Forest Service. Forest Service economists have presented their findings on the impacts of cooperative management of invasive species, the beneficial economic structure of community forest enterprises, and the joint production of fire management and nature's benefits, foreshadowing the Forest Service Shared Stewardship Initiative.

Last year, three Forest Service economists—Bob Haight, Travis Warziniack and Greg Frey—presented research at New Frontiers of Forest Economics, a prestigious international committee of IUFRO that focuses on sustainable use and management. Earlier, they had met with 37 others from Canada, China, France, Germany, Pakistan, Switzerland, United Kingdom and the United States to explore forest economics in the context of markets and governance. They tested theory in a real world case study by visiting with town leaders and private landowners in a former “timber town” converted to a recreation-based economy. They discovered that population growth and other economic changes created friction, especially between longer-term residents and newer residents and tourists. Community dialogue and small changes in operating procedures helped reduce conflicts between the groups and enabled the community to move forward with both recreation and timber economies.

Senior leaders have long recognized the value of this international research collaboration. In fact, agency leaders have even held leadership positions within IUFRO. Two Research and Development Deputy Chiefs have served as IUFRO President—Dr. James Jemison (1968‒1971) and Dr. Robert Buckman (1987‒1990). And this year, National Research Program Leader for International Science Issues John Parrotta was elected to this post. He began his five-year term on Sept. 29.

IUFRO’s members include 640 organizations in over 125 countries, representing an estimated 15,000 scientists who collaborate in the work of nine permanent scientific divisions and interdisciplinary task forces. The USDA Forest Service, is also its largest member. There are currently 43 scientists from throughout the agency serving as IUFRO officeholders.

Conference attendees sitting around a long table.
Attendees in discussion at an earlier IUFRO conference in Squamish, British Columbia. Photo courtesy Peter Deegen, Dresden University of Technology, Germany.