Why the U.S. is failing to protect trees in its forests
The American Society of Arboriculture says its report on the U and K forests is a damning indictment of how many trees are being cut to meet rising demand.
The group’s report, released Tuesday, found that the number of trees in the U, the nation’s biggest forestry market, has declined by nearly 50% since 2009, when there were just 7,000 mature trees.
The decline has accelerated over the past decade, according to the group, which cites the impact of climate change, drought, and habitat loss.
The group estimates that the total number of mature trees in forested lands in the United States is down to 8,300, or 1% of the nation, and that the remaining trees represent about half of the total.
According to the report, in the last 10 years, the number and size of mature forests have dropped by 25%, from 9,600 trees in 2009 to 7,300 in 2015.
In addition, the forested area in the country has shrunk by roughly 1,200 square miles (5,600 square kilometers) from 690 square miles in 2009, according the report.
For years, forest officials have acknowledged the need to reduce the number, but have resisted changing how they manage the landscape.
“We’ve had a long, drawn-out, and sometimes frustrating conversation about how to do it,” Forest Service Director Dan Wiedefeld said in an interview with The Hill.
Wiedefelder said the group’s findings show the need for a “fiscal, social, and economic shift” in the way forests are managed.
President Donald Trump has pledged to create 100 million acres of new forest land.
Despite the steep declines in mature trees, however, Wiedefld said the U has made progress in the past year, thanks to new management practices, a better understanding of the health of forest ecosystems, and increased use of smart irrigation systems and other measures.
He said the federal government will use these tools to preserve trees that are “essential to the health and vitality of our forests,” and that “we’re taking the right steps to achieve this goal.”