The USDA Forest Service and the Southern Group of State Foresters released the first phase of the Southern Forest Futures Project report on Tuesday, May 17, which identifies areas forest managers will focus on to maintain southern forests in the coming years.
According to the report, urbanization, bioenergy use, weather patterns, land ownership changes and invasive species will significantly alter the South's forests between the years 2010 and 2060. About 23 million acres of forest land are projected to decrease. People are also expected to influence water resources, wildlife, recreational opportunities, fire and other issues.
Project team members used computer models and expert analysis to develop the report. It will serve as a guide as Forest Service personnel seek to maintain the vitality and efficiency of forests in the south.
"The agency is poised to respond to the implications of the findings in the summary report," according to Forest Service Southern Regional Forester Liz Agpaoa, "The summary report clearly demonstrates the urgent need for developing a collaborative strategy to conserve and restore southern forests. "A healthy and prosperous America relies on the health of our natural resources, and particularly our forests."
The technical and summary reports completes phase one of the two-phase project and begins a 60-day public comment period, wherein people can submit remarks via the Futures Project website at http://www.srs.fs.usda.gov/futures/.
To put the report's forecast into perspective, Rob Doudrick, director of the Forest Service Southern Research Station, said the potential decrease in forest area is equivalent to the state of South Carolina. "Urbanization along with population growth equates to more demands for additional goods and services from a declining forest base. This could have a dramatic impact on our Southern forests," he said.
|Contact: Zo Hoyle|
USDA Forest Service ‑ Southern Research Station