The United States has 751 million acres of forests that have remained remarkably stable during the past 50 years, according to the U.S. Forest Service's 2010 National Report on Sustainable Forests that was released today.
The report, the second edition since 2003, provides a comprehensive picture of current conditions and trends in the nation's forests, forest industries and forest communities, and also gives details on forest conditions as they relate to sustainability.
"Our nation's trees and forests preserve and protect the vitality of America's clean air and water," saidU.S. Forest Service chief Tom Tidwell. "In order to ensure the sustainability of America's forests in the long term, land managers need to work across jurisdictions and land-use types, viewing forested landscapes as an integrated whole, both ecologically and socially. The data and analysis found in this report will help to contribute to the all-lands approach to resource management supported by the U.S. Forest Service."
The report includes 130 pages of detailed information organized by indicator, as well as summary analyses and policy recommendations. Over 30 Forest Service scientists, senior staff and outside collaborators contributed to this edition of the report. Information was collected using 64 indicators of forest sustainability as a quantitative baseline for measuring progress toward sustainability. The report underscore that action at all levels—national, regional and local—is vital to achieving sustainable forest management in the United States.
Forests in the United States continue to face a number of threats, ranging from fragmentation and loss of forest integrity due to development and an increase in the area and severity of forest disturbances including destructive insects, development and fire. For example, the report finds that the incidence of insect induced tree mortality has increased three-fold in the last decade.
With regard to climate change, the report estimates that America's forests currently offset roughly 13 percent of the nation's industrial greenhouse gas emissions, supporting the Forest Service's position that forests have a major role to play in helping mitigate climate change.
The economic and social environment surrounding forests is also changing rapidly. Data from the report indicates ongoing shifts in where and how wood products are made and the emergence of new markets for environmental services. Some of this social change includes the growing ecotourism industry and a return to wood as a building material in smaller scale structures.
The 2010 National Report on Sustainable Forests is part of a continuing commitment by the U.S. Forest Service to increase the sustainable management of forests, both nationally and globally. Since 2009, when Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack laid out an ambitious vision for managing our forest, the U.S. Forest Service has focused on restoration and conservation efforts that reduce the likelihood of wildfires, protect watersheds, and provide jobs to local communities. The U.S. Forest Service is also extending this approach beyond our public lands by forming partnerships to help maintain the health of all forest lands, public and private, whether or not Forest Service manages them directly. The draft forest planning rule, the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Act and a proposal on Integrated Resource Restoration are just some of the initiatives being led by the U.S. Forest Service to give us greater flexibility to promote more collaborative restoration projects and to target resources to restoring forest landscapes.