Here are some of the key findings related to this topic that are relevant to the other posts for this blog:
- Most of the country’s deforestation happened between the 1600’s and the 1900’s, and was increased by the industrial revolution. Laws and policies passed in the 1900’s that aimed to create a more sustainable way of managing and monitoring forests as slowed down the rate of deforestation (Laws).
- The United States has 304 million hectares of forest land covering about 33% of the country’s land area. 56% of the forest land in the United States is owned privately (Tom 2016). The land that is not owned privately is regulated on local, tribal, state, and federal levels.
- The United States forests are broken down by the United States Forestry Service into West, East, and North, for the purposes of monitoring activity and forest land. The forest land in the United States is broken up into categories of timberland, reserved forests, and other forests, which are listed as “other wooded areas” with lower productivity (2020).
- The federal government is not very involved in the regulation of forest land; this power lies with state governments. State forestry laws vary widely by state.
- While the United States does not directly regulate privately owned forests, the United States Forest Service does provide financial and technical assistance to private forest land owners.
- Some of the current biggest threats to forests in the United States are extensive logging, wildfires, introduction of non-native invasive species, and climate change. Climate change has caused droughts which make the trees weaker against beetles. Winters are no longer cold enough to kill beetles and decrease predatory insect populations the way they used to, which makes it more difficult for trees to fight them off. Dead trees also serve as a way for wildfires to continue spreading to other healthy trees (Borunda, 2020).
- Effects of deforestation (2019):
- Loss of habitat: Because 70% of land animals and plants live in forests, deforestation poses a threat to all these that rely on forests as a habitat.
- Increased greenhouse gases: Forests absorb carbon dioxide, so the removal of forests leads to more carbon dioxide on the atmosphere
- Water in the atmosphere: Trees help regulate the water cycle and bring water into the soil. In areas that have been deforested, there is less water in the air and the soil dries out. This causes the soil to lose the ability to provide nutrients for crops.
- Because trees help retain water in the ground and topsoil, deforestation causes soil erosion. This eroded land becomes more prone to flooding.
- One of the most imminent threats to United States forests, climate change, was addressed in the Paris Climate Agreement. The United States has originally ratified this agreement with more than 50 other countries, but the Trump administration has sent an official notice to the United Nations stating an intent to withdraw from the Agreement. The withdrawal process takes one year, and the official withdrawal date is in November, 2020 (Pompeo, 2020).
Borunda, A. (2020, September 18). The science connecting wildfires to climate change.
Effects of Deforestation: The Pachamama Alliance. (2019). Retrieved October 16, 2020, from https://www.pachamama.org/effects-of-deforestation
Forest area (% of land area) – United States. (2020). Retrieved October 16, 2020, from https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/AG.LND.FRST.ZS?locations=US
Laws, Regulations & Policies. (n.d.). Retrieved October 21, 2020, from https://www.fs.fed.us/forestmanagement/aboutus/lawsandregs.shtml
Pompeo, M. (2020, September 25). On the U.S. Withdrawal from the Paris Agreement – United States Department of State.
Tom, T. (2016, September 16). State of Forests and Forestry in the United States.