ISSUE: WHY IS TREE FARMING IMPORTANT FOR AMERICA AND AMERICA'S FORESTS?
In the U.S., private forest ownership represents almost 60 percent of all forestland. Maintaining these forests for such uses as tree farms provides advantages for the environment, local communities and private landowners, while easing pressure on public lands that may be better suited to conservation and/or recreation.
The Dilemmas Faced by Private Landowners
There are more than 11 million individual owners of private forests in the U.S. Over 90 percent of wood harvested to make the paper and wood products we use everyday comes from these private landowners. These private landowners provide an important raw material – wood – for the forest products industry. They also provide critical ecological and social benefits. But land ownership isn't free, and without a positive economic balance, many owners unfortunately decide to sell land for development.
• It's tempting to sell the land.
In many parts of the country, landowners have lucrative opportunities to sell their land for development or other uses, and according to a recent USDA publication they frequently receive tempting offers to sell.
• Forest ownership is constantly changing.
Many private, family-owned forests in the U.S. will soon be changing hands since 20 percent of family forests are owned by people 75 years or older. According to the National Woodland Owner Survey (NWOS) conducted by the U.S. Forest Service, nearly 25 percent of private forests are owned by people who plan to sell or transfer land in the near future.
When we lose our forests, we lose valuable ecological and social benefits including:
• Offsetting a portion of greenhouse gas emissions and global climate change:
Currently our forests sequester about 10 percent of U.S. carbon emissions. (Woodbury et al. 2007)
• A habitat for wildlife:
Without well-maintained forestland, more animal species will become threatened by deforestation.
• Clean water:
Flowing streams from forests supply two-thirds of the U.S. clean water supply.
• Scenic beauty and recreation:
Activities such as hiking, fishing, hunting and camping are equally important to local citizens and landowners, and they boost the economy and local tourism.