The Next 100 Years of Forests in the U.S. – Growing the Forests We Want and Need

Posted: April 24, 2013
The Forest Service recently released the report “Future of America’s Forests and Rangelands”,[1] providing an extensive examination of the next 50 years (2010-2060) of natural resource pressures and potential changes in forests of the United States. The report highlights risks for negative impacts to forest resources linked to expansion of urban and developed areas, climate change, population growth, and other factors. Potential changes in a number of areas are evaluated including resource availability, recreation opportunities, wildlife habitat, water resources, and public health. Data analysis and evaluation of alternative scenarios in the report conclude that as a result of the highlighted risks, “Forest inventory volumes are expected to peak between 2020 and 2030, followed by a decline in volume to2060.”

So, what does the future hold for America’s Forests? Are our best days behind us? While the challenges may be many, there is reason for hope – namely, our history as a nation that values forests and has proven its ability to restore and protect them. Today, the U.S. has more trees than 100 years ago, and almost exactly the same extent of forest cover as in the early 1900s. This forest retention has been accomplished despite intense pressure from a quadrupling of our population; substantial use of wood in construction and for other uses; massive urban and suburban expansion; devastation from insects such as spruce budworm and pine bark beetle; and diseases such as Dutch elm, chestnut blight, and white pine blister rust. So how did we do it, and, more importantly, can we do it again?