A new publication by the USDA Forest Service, Private Forest, Public Benefits, explains how privately held forests in the U.S. are under substantial stress from the effects of climate change, wildfire, insects, pathogens and urban development. And since 55 percent of all national forested lands are privately held, how we address these stresses will affect the vitally important role private forests play in America.
Private Forests, Public Benefits identifies increased housing density on private forest lands that can heighten the land’s vulnerability to environmental threats such as wildfires, potentially altering clean water, timber, wildlife habitat and open space that forests provide. The report estimates that between the years 2000 and 2030, over 57 million acres of private forest will experience a substantial increase in housing density and that up to 75 percent of private forests in some watersheds will experience this change.
According to the report, future increases in housing density will affect the numbers of at-risk plants and wildlife, as well as water quality, timber and interior forest. Such effects are likely to be exacerbated by the impacts of wildfire, insect pests and diseases, and air pollution. While the impacts of increased housing will be most prevalent in the East, impacts will be felt in the West as well.
The report contains national maps and tables displaying where forest benefits are predicted to be most affected by future housing development, as well as maps indicating where these benefits may be most impacted by other threats.
The Forest Service is providing this information as a tool that can be used by local and state agencies as well as by organizations for planning and discussion. To obtain maps or a copy of Private Forests, Public Benefits, visit our website.