National Report on Sustainable Forests

The USDA Forest Service is distributing its National Report on Sustainable Forests – 2010 (www.fs.fed.us/research/sustain/). Following are excerpts from the Executive Summary.

“The report relies on the Montréal Process Criteria and Indicators (MP C&I) for Forest Sustainability to organize and present data relevant to U.S. forests and their sustainability across ecological, social, and economic dimensions. It is linked to the forest sustainability reporting processes of the other countries participating in the Montréal Process, and it is also linked to domestic efforts at local and regional scales that use criteria and indicators to help ensure the sustainability of their forests. A similar report, also using the MP C&I, was published in 2004, and the release of the current report marks another milestone in our continuing efforts to build the knowledge base needed to sustainably manage forested ecosystems in the United States.”

“Are our forests sustainable? This complex question has no easy yes or no answers. On the whole, no evidence suggests that we are ‘using up’ our forests. In fact, the total area of forests has been stable, and the volume of wood found on them increasing. But a number of issues cause significant concern; they range from regional forest fragmentation and loss to widespread increases in forest insect infestation and other disturbances. Potential changes in climate compound the risks and uncertainties associated with these issues. The following additional key findings have emerged from the information presented in the report:

  • At 751 million acres, forest area in the United States remains stable.
  • Fragmentation and loss of forest land are occurring in many regions and localities, owing mostly to human development.
  • Levels of forest disturbance are rising, including a three-fold increase in insect-induced mortality relative to the previous report.
  • The number and complexity of values and demands society places on forests are increasing.
  • Wood products production is declining relative to growing consumption, with increasing imports filling the gap.
  • Forest management activity is declining in many areas as forest products firms divest themselves of timber lands.
  • Sustained capacity and willingness to manage forests sustainably are evidenced by a growing number of public - private collaborations on projects devoted to landscape-scale conservation.”