Forest Service study supports "All Lands" approach outlined by Vilsack last year
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today held a national conference call to highlight a USDA Forest Service report entitled Private Forests, Public Benefits, showing that privately held forests in the U.S. are under substantial stress from development and fragmentation and that increased housing density in forests will exacerbate other threats to forests from wildfire, insects, pathogens and pollution. These threats to the important goods and services provided by privately owned forests, which make up 56 percent of all forested lands, emphasize the importance of the collaborative, cross-boundary approach to conserving and restoring our forests as laid out by Secretary Vilsack in a major address last year.
"Americans rely on their forests for a wide range of social, environmental and economic benefits, including clean water, wood products, habitat for wildlife, and outdoor recreation," said Vilsack. "The Private Forests, Public Benefits report shows that now, more than ever, we need to take an 'all lands' approach to managing our nation's forests, whether they are national forests or under the stewardship of state or private entities."
Private Forests, Public Benefits is one of a series of reports prepared by the "Forests on the Edge" project. This report uses geographic information systems to identify watersheds where private forests contribute the greatest amount of goods and services in terms of clean water, timber, and wildlife habitat; and where these goods and services are most at risk from increased housing density as well as insect pests and disease, wildfire, and air pollution.
Some of the report's key findings include:
- Housing density will increase on more than 57 million acres of America's private forests between 2000 and 2030.
- Up to 75 percent of the private forests in many regions are predicted to experience a substantial increase in housing density.
- Private forests that play a critical role in supplying our nation with clean water resources, and the timber we need to build homes and communities across the country will be threatened.
- A number of species including the already-endangered Florida panther and the grizzly bear are also expected to be put at risk because of loss of forested land.
The study also identifies areas where other threats to forests – like fire, pollution and disease – will be made much worse as a result of forest loss. For instance, as houses encroach on forests, the risks to human life and property from fire increase as do the costs of fire management and suppression.
The Forests on the Edge project seeks to increase public awareness of the importance of conserving America's private forests; create tools for strategic planning; and provide Congress and Forest Service partners with better information on the values of and challenges facing our nation's open space. To obtain maps or a copy of Private Forests, Public Benefits go to:http://www.fs.fed.us/openspace/fote/index.html.