Why We Need Healthy Woods
Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack may have explained it best when he said, “A healthy and prosperous America relies on the health of our natural resources, and particularly our forests.” Below are some of the many reasons why forests are important.Got woods? Visit MyLandPlan.org, a resource for woodland owners, by woodland owners, designed to help you protect and enjoy your woods.
Forests are critical for safeguarding the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the wildlife we love. Forests:
- Prevent Soil Erosion. Forests anchor the ground and intercept water from rainfall and snow, storing it and releasing it slowly. Reduced soil erosion also protects farms, and population centers from avalanches and downstream flooding.
- Protect Water Quality. Twenty-five percent of America's water flows from private forests.
- Protect Biodiversity. Woodlands are the most diverse ecosystems on land. Worldwide, forests provide habitat for 90 percent of the plant and animal species that live on land. Sixty percent of America's at-risk wildlife rely on private forests.
- Reduce Carbon Emissions. Keeping forests healthy offers one of the most immediate solutions to addressing climate change in a cost effective way. Around the world, forests and the soil beneath them absorb about a quarter of all carbon pollution that causes global warming. In the United States, our forests absorb 12 percent of all carbon emissions, and with even better forest stewardship, this could increase to as much as 20 percent. Private forests store more carbon than national forests and continue to help reduce carbon emissions by supplying renewable energy and wood products.
Strong Economic Growth
Throughout our history, America’s forests have been a cornerstone of our national well being. For centuries, forests have boosted our economic growth by creating jobs, supplying materials for our homes, schools, communities and businesses.
- Forestry and other related industries employ 2.9 million people nationwide
- Each 1,000 acres of privately-owned forest creates 8 jobs
- Hunters and anglers spend $76 billion a year, traveling to, and enjoying their hobbies, much of this time spent in forests
- More than 90 percent of America's wood products come from private forests.
Threats to Our Woodlands
Family forests are a national resource teetering on a razor’s edge of danger. They face a toxic blend of natural and man-made threats. Below are just a few examples:
- Development Pressures. Rampant development has threatened private forests for some time, but development’s toll on woodlands has an especially dramatic impact in the last decade. USDA estimates point to more than 57 million acres of private forest land will be impacted by development from 2000 to 2030.
- Aging Owner Population. More than 170 million acres of private forests will change hands in the next 20 years, putting these forests at risk of being divided into small tracts or sold to developers, resulting in the loss of public benefits these forests provide.
- Catastrophic Fire. The oldest threat to forests is still one of the most dangerous; in the last half decade, family forests have been under greater threats from fire than ever before. More than 400 million acres of private forests are at risk of wildfire.
- Pests, Pathogens, and Invaders. Invasive species are another threat to our nation’s family forests – nonnative insects, and plants that migrate to non-indigenous forests where they wreak havoc. More than 27 million acres of state, county and private forests are at risk.
- Warming Temperatures. Summers and winters are warmer in every region of the country. Higher temperatures will mean more insect infestations because fewer are killed during mild winters. Less rain and snow can lead to flash floods and dried up aquifers. Higher temperatures also increase risk of catastrophic fire.
- Vanishing Markets. Traditional markets for forest products, such as construction and paper, are either in decline, or production is being moved offshore. Without a market for forest products, the pressures to sell off woodlands increase.