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  • David Wear, co-project lead, economist, Southern Research Station
  • John Greis, co-project lead, forester, Southern Region

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December 2010 Update

The Southern Forest Futures Project is close to becoming a reality. After more than two years of work by scientists across the South, we are well on our way toward completing this complex undertaking.

Here is an update of our progress:

  • We have generated a set of six futures or scenarios to describe how the South might evolve over the next 50 years as the result of factors such as urbanization, climate change, and invasive species.

  • We have used models and science-synthesis to evaluate what these futures might mean for forests and their many values to people.

  • Scientists have finalized chapters on the following "meta-issues": climate change, land use change, forest conditions, forest ownership change, demographics and recreation user preferences, recreation demand and supply, timber markets, bioenergy, tax influences, jobs and income, water resources and forests, wildlife and plants, invasive plants, forest insects and diseases, and fire.

  • We're editing and compiling the 17 chapters into one cohesive document.

  • We're preparing the summary report.

  • We're identifying key findings.

  • Researchers are writing separate reports that detail the implications for forest management and conservation in the five subregions of the South.

The draft findings will be released in early 2011, with the five subregional reports issued in subsequent months. As we move through the most intense and hectic phase of this project, we are excited to share our findings. Thanks for your continued interest in and support for this important project.

What is the Southern Forest Futures Project?

The Southern Forest Futures Project SFFP) provides a science-based "futuring" analysis for the forests of the southeastern United States. The effort was chartered by the USDA Forest Service Southern Research Station and Southern Region and the Southern Group of State Foresters. The SFFP examines how a variety of possible futures could shape forests and their many ecosystem services and values using computer modeling and cutting edge scientific analysis. The ultimate goal is to translate this vast array of science and modeling results into useable information for management and policy making regarding the South's forests.

How does the SFFP evaluate the future?

The SFFP uses a scenario approach to anticipating the future. No single forecast of future conditions is likely to be correct - the future involves many trends and variables and all are uncertain. Instead of focusing on one forecast we've used public input and expert opinion to derive a range of alternative futures to analyze. These are based on many factors, including climate change, economic growth, and shifts in forest products and bioenergy markets.

The SFFP uses a set of forecasting models to forecast land use changes, shifts in forest composition and structure, carbon stocks, and harvesting. Other analysis tools and models are used to infer the implications of possible futures for several meta-issues surrounding southern forests such as water, wildlife, fire, invasive plants, and several socially important ecosystem services.

How does the SFFP derive management implications?

Because of the South's immense ecological and social diversity, we have divided the region into five subregions for exploring management implications for all forest ownerships. Forecasts and issue analyses described above are being translated in each of these subregions by a team headed by a scientist and a forest manager familiar with their respective subregion.

What will the SFFP produce?

The results of the SFFP will be contained in three reports to be released in two phases. In the first phase we will release a Forecast and Meta-Issue Report that will provide the detailed analysis of alternative futures and their implications for the meta-issues. At the same time, we will produce a Summary Report that summarizes the key findings and sets out the most important implications and findings for the South. In the second phase, we will release Subregional Management Implications Reports to draw out the key findings for each of the five subregions.

How much progress has been made?

The SFFP has matured through several stages:

  1. Fifteen public meetings and a careful analysis of public issues was completed and results were published.
  2. Alternative futures were constructed using public input and an expert panel.
  3. The forecasting team has completed forecasts of land use, forest conditions, and forest uses for the futures.
  4. Teams are completing reports on each of eleven specific meta-issues.
  5. Draft reports are being developed and edited.
  6. Subregional teams are beginning to "downscale" the results.

What are the next steps for the project?

    1. 1. Completion and peer reviews of the Forecast and Meta-Issue Report and Summary Report (Fall 2010)
    2. Release of the public review draft of the Forecast and Meta- Issue Report and Summary Report. (Winter 2010)
    3. Completion, review and release of the Subregional Management Implications Reports. (Spring 2011)

More than thirty scientists and analysts are involved in bringing the Southern Forest Futures Project to its completion. The SFFP should be viewed as the latest installment in a long and important conversation about sustaining the South's forests. We look forward to continuing the dialogue.


David Wear and John Greis
Southern Forest Futures Project

PDF Version of this Update


April 2010

It has been several months since you’ve heard from us. Rest assured that the Southern Forest Futures Project continues apace and that we’re continuing to make progress toward completion of the project.
Here’s a synopsis of what has been and what is being accomplished:

  1. We’ve generated a set of futures or scenarios to describe how the world and the South might evolve over the next 50 years in terms of population, economics, and climate.
  2. We’ve developed and deployed a set of interlinked forecasting models to evaluate what these futures might mean for forests and their many values to people.
  3. Teams of scientists are busy evaluating the set of “meta-issues” associated with future forests.

Our timeline has been adjusted as we’ve worked through several challenges over the past l months. Still we expect that draft reports will be released to the public before the end of 2010.
As we move through this intense and hectic phase of the project, we’re getting excited about sharing the Team’s findings. We trust that the results will be both interesting and informative for all who care about the sustainability of southern forests.

For more information, visit the Southern Forest Futures Project web site:

Thanks for your continued interest in this project!



July 24, 2008

- It has been a busy summer for the Southern Forest Futures Project. We are happy to report that we have now completed a thorough analysis of the comments received at the eighteen public meetings we held earlier this year. Perhaps not surprisingly, it took considerable time and effort to sift through the more than 2,200 comments and craft a set of issues to be addressed by the Futures Project. This issue analysis is posted on this website along with a form for sending your review comments back to us. We have also been working on crafting a set of scenarios for consideration by the Futures Project. In June, we convened a small team of experts in Atlanta to begin this process based on the input received at the public meetings. It was a fruitful meeting and we will be drafting a report on scenarios in the near future. We are looking forward to moving on to the next steps of the project. We will continue to firm up the scenarios, flesh out our sub-regional analysis teams, and begin to do the analytical work of the Futures Project. We will continue to post our progress on this website.

June 10, 2008

- We've been working hard over the past couple of months! Through eighteen public meetings, we met with about 600 people who generated more than 2200 comments, sharing their thoughts on important issues for the Southern Forest Futures Project to consider. After a couple of months of sifting, sorting, and study, we're nearing completion of our interpretation of this input. We'll post the report to this website in the near future. We're already beginning to use the information to help form the set of scenarios we'll be evaluating through the Futures Project--scenario team will meet this month. In addition, we're starting to recruit the teams of scientists and analysts who will build forecasts, evaluate issues, and estimate the impacts of scenarios on future forests and their values. Expect to hear more from us on these topics in the next few weeks.

March 31, 2008

- It has now been two weeks since we completed the last of our 15 "face-to-face" public meetings. As you might imagine, it was a very interesting journey and revealed quite a bit regarding our collective concerns regarding the sustainability of forests in the South. We're in the process of posting the comments received from all of these meetings.

As promised, we'll complete our public input process with three more input sessions. To allow for a broad participation from throughout the region, these will be conducted using an internet platform. You will be able to access the meeting using a computer with access to the internet. These "webinars" will be held at the following times:

  • Tuesday, April  8, 7:00-9:00 PM Eastern Time
  • Wednesday April 16, 2:00-4:00 PM Eastern Time
  • Wednesday April 16, 7:00-9:00 PM Eastern Time

Visit the Webinar page to register so we can send you details on how to join in.

Please also pass the word regarding these webinars, especially to those who missed out on the face-to-face meetings. And remember that you can always use the public input form to provide us with additional input.

Thank you for your continued interest and participation!

March 3, 2008

- We're nearing the conclusion of our schedule of public meetings and the gathering of your input. This week will see us in Athens, Georgia and Auburn, Alabama, where we'll be taking input on Piedmont and Coastal Plain issues. Toward the end of March, we'll be hosting two web-based seminars for folks who did not have an opportunity to attend one of the fourteen public meetings. Yet another way for you to provide us with your insights is to use our newly developed online Comment Form. We now look forward to carefully evaluating this input and distilling it into a set of issues to be addressed by the Futures Project.

February 25, 2008

- Today we'll be visiting Raleigh, North Carolina to complete the tenth of fifteen public meetings for the project. To date, we've gathered input from about 400 people in nine different states. It has been a fascinating set of meetings that have provided us with a broad, panoramic view of the issues facing forests and their values throughout the South. The diversity of this region is stunning-from the coastal flatwoods of South Carolina to the cross-timbers region of central Oklahoma-but many of the issues we are hearing are held in common. We look forward to carefully evaluating this input and distilling it into a set of issues to be addressed by the Futures Project, while we collect more input at our remaining meetings. We've posted the first set of public comments, from our meeting in Baton Rouge, for your review.

February 5, 2008

- Now that we've added Auburn and Blacksburg, we now have details posted for all but the last of the face-to-face meetings. Still to come are details for the meeting in the Islands subregion plus the two Webcast meetings. Good thing, too, as we've already completed our first two Public Meetings, the ones in Baton Rouge and Stoneville. For the hundred plus people able to join those meetings, that you for your interest, enthusiasm, and advice. We'll be working to summarize your input and get that made available on the web site. For the rest of you, please check our other Public Meeting Locations and find one you can attend!

January 15, 2008

- Thanks for your patience while we got the new site design implemented. For now you're probably interested in the upcoming Public Meetings. We'll be posting more details on them as they come together. Each of the 15 face-to-face meetings will run from 1 to 5 pm, local time. Right now we have the dates and cities lined up but are still working on specific locations. These meetings will be supplemented by two online meetings to be held in the evening. Dates and times for these have not yet been scheduled. Please use the form to the right to sign up for our listserv so we can alert you when new details become available.

January 8, 2008

- It's getting pretty exciting around here. Our initial organizing phase is now complete, and we're looking forward to our upcoming round of 17 public meetings, to be held across the South and beginning January 29th in Baton Rouge, LA. Sign up for our email list and we'll let you know as soon as details are available.

December 13, 2007

- Subregional Team Leaders met face to face for the first time today in Atlanta to plan a series of meetings that seek public input into key issues facing this project. Over a dozen meetings will be held across the Southern U.S. beginning the end of January 2007 and running into March. Stay tuned for more details here as they develop.