By Tom Tidwell
February 17, 2011
The USDA Forest Service is committed to investing in the future of our public lands through our work with partners at home and abroad. The value of our forests cannot be underestimated. In addition to providing clean air and water and wildlife habitat, the livelihoods of 1.6 billion people rely on forests worldwide. At home, one in five Americans depend upon clean water originating in national forests.
In the United States, conservation groups, landowners, businesses and governments at all levels are involved more than ever before in efforts to address environmental and economic challenges on many fronts, including in the development of a new Forest Service Planning Rule that will govern how we manage and conserve America's 193-million acre National Forest System. Our ability to come together now to address a myriad of concerns will have great impact on future generations.
Public and private forests are under substantial stress from the effects of climate change, wildfire, insects and pathogens. Privately held forests also face pressure from development of housing and other real estate – America loses more than 4,000 acres of open space to new building every day. The private forests and rangelands that are being parceled off for housing developments and urban sprawl adversely affect our water supply, our air and our wildlife habitat.
The Forest Service is tackling these issues with an all-lands approach that requires looking broadly across public and private lands to protect the environment and create wealth in rural communities. I have faith that by working with our communities and our partners, together we will be innovators, collaborators and defenders of our precious natural resources. As we find new ways to protect our national legacy, we will also work to create or expand emerging markets at home and abroad, such as for carbon and sustainable bioenergy that can provide landowners with another source of revenue.
It is time for us as a nation and as part of the global community to focus on what's really at risk. Issues affecting our natural resources aren't limited to any single ownership or any specific part of the planet. They extend across boundaries and are best addressed collaboratively. As we move through the International Year of the Forest, I urge everyone to become engaged.
Conserving our forests isn't just something that we should choose to do. It is something that we must do.
About: "Tom Tidwell is the Chief of the U.S. Forest Service, an agency of the Department of Agriculture"
Received February 16, 2011 - Published February 17, 2011
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