Loss of US Private Forestland

The Society of American Foresters believes that land-use and land-management policies should recognize the ecological, economic, and social importance of private forestland and strive to minimize forest loss. The type of forestland lost and the drivers of change vary geographically and include urban development and the conversion to agriculture and annual energy crops. However, the primary driver is urban development (Alig et al. 2010). Complex social and economic factors influence landowners’ decisions regarding the management, distribution, and, ultimately, the retention of forestlands. As those forests are lost, so too, are the essential roles they play in providing watershed and water-quality protection, wildlife habitat, outdoor recreation opportunities, carbon sequestration, and forest products that contribute to our social and economic well-being.

SAF supports policies and incentives that conserve private forestland. These include: 1) recognizing the role for forests, forest management, and carbon storage in harvested wood products in addressing climate change; 2) land-use policies that recognize the multiple functions and values of forests and respect the rights and responsibilities of private forest landowners; 3) forest taxation systems that encourage and/or don’t discourage long-term investment in sustainable forest management and do not encourage parcelization; 4) landowner technical assistance and education programs about the importance of maintaining private forests; 5) voluntary agreements, such as conservation easements, that encourage active management of forests; and 6) funding for public programs (e.g., the Farm Bill) designed to encourage the retention and sustainable management of private forestland.

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