The State of U.S. Forests

Updated Census of the Nation’s Forests and Woodlands

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U.S. forest resources and products have implications for economic security, environmental well-being, and overall national health. Photo by Laura Neale, USFS.

The U.S. forest products industry accounts for approximately four percent of the nation’s total manufacturing GDP, producing over $200 billion in products every year.

To keep tabs on the condition and status of America’s forest resources over time, the USDA Forest Service Forest Inventory and Analysis Program compiles the official estimates for all public and private forest lands in the country. These long-term trends are used to inform economic, policy, and management decisions across a range of scales.

Forest Resources of the United States is an updated census of the nation’s forests and woodlands. The report is a supporting document to the upcoming 2020 Resources Plan Act (or RPA) Assessment mandated by Congress every 10 years. It guides public and private investment dollars through forest health programs, recreation, tourism industries, and harvesting operations.

SRS forester Sonja Oswalt served as lead coordinator of the report.

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The report includes summaries about unique species. Longleaf pine forest, for example, currently covers 3.5 million acres, primarily in Florida, Alabama, Georgia, and the Carolinas, with another one million acres in mixed longleaf pine-oak forest type. USFS photo.

The U.S. is home to tremendous natural resources, including 823 million acres of forests and woodlands. While the country’s combined forest and woodland area has been stable-to-increasing for decades, that doesn’t mean forests aren’t changing in response to a variety of internal and external stimuli.

“Forest land has increased six percent since 1997 in the South. Its forests are known as the nation’s wood basket, because the region includes the highest rate of planted timberland,” says Oswalt. “Seventy-one percent of that southern planted timberland is loblolly and shortleaf pine.”

Forests and woodlands combined make up over one-third of the nation’s landscape. More than half of that is privately owned, with most public ownership in the West. National forests make up 19 percent of forests and woodlands, although trees on national forests have aged as harvests on public land have declined.

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Trees and forests provide numerous benefits to urban residents, and urban areas in the South are growing more rapidly than anywhere else in the U.S. Using a tool called i-Tree, FIA is working to monitor and better understand urban forest conditions. Photo by Lance Cheung, USDA.

“Private lands in the South account for 58 percent of national timber removals,” adds Oswalt.

Forests and woodlands have become increasingly accessible to people. The country’s road network has grown so that any person can travel to within one mile of over 88 percent of forest land. This increase in accessibility means more people can enjoy the benefits that forests provide — but it also results in increased fragmentation, which can impact forest health.

Forests are moving to the city as well. The value of urban trees continues to grow as economic and public health data show that these trees can reduce energy used for heating and cooling by $5.4 billion every year while producing 67 million tons of oxygen.

Read the full text of the report.

For more information, email Sonja Oswalt at sonja.n.oswalt@usda.gov.

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