FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 26, 2001
ATLANTA — Forests of the South are sustainable, a newly released report says. But a number of factors may affect their future.
Four Federal agencies, alongside southern state forestry agencies, released the findings today of the Southern Forest Resources Assessment, a two-year study launched in April 1999. While it appears that southern forests are sustainable—which means they will remain diverse and productive, while providing economic and social benefits—the Assessment does point to a number of trends that require attention.
The sprawl of urban areas tops the list as the most significant and permanent force affecting forest ecosystems.
“We studied the pressures being placed on southern forests and forecast what we expect to occur in the future,” said co-leader Dr. David Wear, of the USDA Forest Service, which led the Assessment. “We examined all major forces of change, from timber and land markets to socio-economic factors, insects and diseases, climatic changes, and other potential threats. It appears that population growth and urbanization are the most significant challenges we face in sustaining forests.”
Between 1992 and 2020, about 6 percent of the South’s forests could be lost to urban uses, with largest losses concentrated in the Piedmont and Coastal Plains, he said. The effects of urban and suburban areas extend far beyond city limits, resulting in wildlife habitat fragmentation, a scarcity of forest benefits such as recreation opportunities, and limitations on management options necessary to keep forests healthy.
Compiled by more than 25 scientists from the Forest Service, Environmental Protection Agency, Tennessee Valley Authority, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and several universities, the Assessment provides a comprehensive basis for informed public policy and decisionmaking.
“For the first time we have a study that presents an accurate, objective picture of the status of southern forests,” said co-leader John Greis of the Forest Service. “This is a science-based assessment, and we’ve attempted to employ the best data and information available.”
Despite these trends, opportunities exist to develop strategies to address the challenges they pose, Greis said. Effective strategies, however, need to start with the five million private landowners who oversee nearly 90 percent of the South’s forests.
“Continued sustainability of southern forest resources will largely rest with the decisions of private landowners,” Wear said. “This Assessment provides the necessary information in an understandable form so that landowners and public policy-makers can better understand southern forests, their condition, and how management decisions can affect them Citizens may obtain electronic copies of the draft report and summary by accessing the Assessment’s official Web site at www.srs.fs.fed.us/sustain. The summary is available in hard copy, and the entire report is available on CD-ROM. Telephone 828-257-4200 to obtain copies.
Meeting dates and times and other activities will also be available on the site.
Statement from Sam D. Hamilton on Southern Forest Resources Assessment
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