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Deforestation in the United States

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Title: Deforestation in the United States  
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Deforestation in the United States

This graph depicts forest cover in the United States by geographic region.

Deforestation in the United States is an ongoing environmental issue that attracts protests from environmentalists. Prior to the arrival of European-Americans about one half of the United States land area was forest, about 4,000,000 square kilometres (990,000,000 acres) in 1600, yet today it is only about 3,000,000 square kilometres (740,000,000 acres).[1] Nearly all of this deforestation took place prior to 1910, and the forest resources of the United States have remained relatively constant through the entire 20th century.[1]

The 2005 old growth forests, a vast majority of which were removed prior to the 20th century.[1]

After European settlement

For the 300 years following the arrival of Europeans, land was cleared, mostly for agriculture, at a rate that matched the rate of population growth.[2] For every person added to the population, one to two hectares of land was cultivated.[3] This trend continued until the 1920s when the amount of crop land stabilized in spite of continued population growth. As abandoned farm land reverted to forest the amount of forest land increased from 1952 reaching a peak in 1963 of 3,080,000 square kilometres (760,000,000 acres). Since 1963 there has been a steady decrease of forest area with the exception of some gains from 1997. Gains in forest land have resulted from conversions from crop land and pastures at a higher rate than loss of forest to development. Because urban development is expected to continue, an estimated 93,000 square kilometres (23,000,000 acres) of forest land is projected be lost by 2050,[4] a 3% reduction from 1997. Other qualitative issues have been identified such as the continued loss of old-growth forest,[5] the increased fragmentation of forest lands, and the increased urbanization of forest land.[6]

Current issues

Map of above ground woody biomass across the United States.

Deforestation in the United States is affected by many factors. One such factor is the effect, whether positive or negative, that the logging industry has on forests in the country. Logging in the United States is a hotly debated topic as groups who either support or oppose logging argue over its benefits and negative effects. n"This industry comprises the establishments primarily engaged in one or more of the following: (1) cutting timber; (2) cutting and transporting timber; (3) producing wood chips in the field,” the definition provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.[7]

"The United States is the world’s leading producer and consumer of forest products and accounts for about one-fourth of the world’s production and consumption. The United States is also the world’s largest producer of softwood and hardwood lumber. In 1996, total annual sales for commercial (nonfederal) timber and nontimber forest products was approximately $3.8 billion."

The biggest issue facing deforestation in the United States is illegal logging in forests. The United States Forest Service states that illegal logging is the biggest problem with deforestation because it is nearly impossible to monitor and stop. It goes on throughout the U.S. and other countries and often happens when companies disregard their permits and go beyond what they are allowed to harvest. The Forest Service and EPA work together to make sure that the permits for logging companies in the United States are granted in such a way that the forests are kept healthy and sustainable, and illegal logging reduces the chances that forests will be kept this way.

The United States Forest Service is in favor of logging to a certain extent but there are several groups that oppose logging in the United States. Groups such as and state that logging in the United States and specifically in industrial areas has led to deforestation and near extinction of many animals.

Species extinctions in the Eastern forests

Forest cover in the Eastern United States reached its lowest point in roughly 1872 with about 48 percent compared to the amount of forest cover in 1620. Of the 28 forest bird species with habitat exclusively in that forest, Pimm claims four become extinct either wholly or mostly because of habitat loss, the passenger pigeon, Carolina parakeet, ivory-billed woodpecker, and Bachman's Warbler.[8]

See also



  1. ^ a b c Forest Resources of the United States
  2. ^ 'Collapse': How Societies choose to Fail or Succeed, The New York Times
  3. ^ American Forest A History of Resiliency and Recovery United States Forest Service
  4. ^ Land Use Changes Involving Forestry in the United States: 1952 to 1997, With Projections to 2050
  5. ^ United Nations (2005) "Global Forest Resources Assessment"
  6. ^ U.S. Department of Agriculture "Forests on the Edge - Housing Development on America's Private Forests" (2005) Retrieved November 19, 2006
  7. ^ US EPA, "Forestry Facts and Figures".
  8. ^ Pimm, Stuart (2002). "The Dodo went extinct (and other ecological myths)".  

Further reading

  • Matera, Chris (14 September 2009). "Massachusetts forests at the crossroads". Massachusetts Forest Watch. 
  • R.H. Fuller. 1906. The Struggles of the First State to Preserve its Forests. Appleton's Magazine.

External links

  • United States Forest Service
  • Save America's Forests - environmental lobby group
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