Saturday, May 19, 2007

America's forests succumb to growing pressures

The United States forest landscape is changing fast, mainly due to upcoming trends that are difficult to resist. And the three major trends that are expected to affect forest resources include: A changing forest land base, rising non-commodity uses and environmental health change.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service noted that the ability of forests to supply forest products have diminished due to growing pressures to supply a broad spectrum of commodities and non-market goods and services. To mitigate this problem, there is an urgent need to conduct a complete inventory of the forests as to whether they are in keeping with the appropriate land use and land cover changes.

The USDA Forest Service has also urged the thorough documentation on the condition of forest resources. To do this, there is a need to make an in depth analysis in order to estimate the outdoor recreation demand and potential increases in use, wildlife habitat suitability and extent, watershed conditions, grazing use and biological diversity.

"To get a complete picture of these resources, all forest land, including wilderness areas and parks, should be included in forest resource inventories," reports the USDA.

Another factor that certainly affects the health and productivity of forests is attributed to the declining air quality brought about by pollutions, thus resulting to climate change. To resolve this problem, the USDA has thought of establishing a baseline system that will monitor and detect apparent changes in the health and risks that affect the forest ecosystems today.

Since 1930, the federal government has already launched the Forest Inventory and Analysis program that is meant to collect, analyze and report information on the status and trends of America's forests. It is tracking how much forests are left, where they exist, who owns them, how they are managed, how they are changing, how the forest vegetation are growing and how much of them died or been destroyed.

To fully implement the FIA program, federal funds are needed. When it started in 1999, a total of US$29.7 million was earmarked. But for this fiscal year up to 2012, it needs at least US$73.3 million to fund the desired goals of the forest development program.

"We face new challenges each day--urban sprawl and fire risk at the wild land-urban interface, the effect of forest fragmentation on habitat, invasive threats to our native vegetation, and soil and water quality related to forest management, just to name a few," says Dale Bosworth, chief of the USDA Forest Service in a FIA Strategic Plan for 2007.

Already included in the its five-year goal is he complete implementation of the FIA Base Federal program in all 50 states, including the Caribbean and Pacific Islands and interior Alaska, by 2008, the USDA said.

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