Private Forests Losing Ground To Housing Development
Housing density in America’s private forests will increase over the next 25 years, impacting natural resources across the country, according to a U.S. Forest Service study.
“Every day, America loses more than 4,000 acres of open space to development or more than three acres per minute and the rate of conversion is getting faster all the time,” said Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth.
“This study provides valuable information for local, state and federal agencies to consider as they make decisions about the future of our communities and our forests,” he said.
The study, “Forests on the Edge: Housing Development on America’s Private Forests,” was conducted by scientists in the agency’s research stations and the private sector.
It suggests that by 2030 housing density will increase substantially on more than 44 million acres or 11 percent of private forest land, an area greater in size than New England.
The Forest Service found that nearly 700,000 acres of forest were converted each year from 1982 to 1997, but this increased to one million acres annually during the last five years of this period and is projected to continue at a strong rate.
The agency estimates that private forests in the Southeast, where three-quarters of all U.S. private forests are located, will experience the most extensive changes.
Forestland development pressures will also be high in parts of the Northeast, the Pacific Northwest and California.
The Forests on the Edge study provides national maps of forested watersheds projected to be developed and a list of the top 15 watersheds, including watersheds in Maine, North and South Carolina, Mississippi, New York, Georgia, Virginia and eight other eastern states.
Private forests cover 430 million acres, nearly 60 percent of America’s total forestland. The Forest Service says private forestland provides nearly 30 percent of all fresh water and 92 percent of all U.S. timber harvested in 2001. The study and maps can be found at www.fs.fed.us/projects/fote/ .
Provided by the Environmental News Service.