Forest Science and Health

Forest Health and Sustainability

About 71.7 million acres of forests are at risk of damage from insects, and diseases according to USDA Forest Service's 2013-2027 National Forest Insect and Disease Risk Map. Damage to our country’s forests puts homes and livelihoods in danger from increased risk of wildfire as well as stressors on individual and community health. 

The proper management of our forests is a critical national priority. Sustainable forest management ensures that the three primary needs of our society—environmental, social and economic—are balanced and working together, thus creating a forest resource that is sustainable. The benefits we derive from our forests help us maintain our quality of life, benefits such as: clean and abundant water, habitat for plants and animals, rural community stability, energy self-sufficiency, and access for recreation and spiritual renewal. 

Keeping Forests Forested
In the past one hundred years, the US witnessed the loss of two very important forest species, American chestnut and American elm, due to the introduction of foreign pathogens. As global trade increases and people and goods travel more widely and more frequently, damaging invasive species are arriving at an increasing rate. In just the past decade, 90 new, foreign-introduced plant pests and 19 species of non-native wood-boring and bark insects have been detected for the first time in the US.  Species such as ash, beech, birch, elm, hemlock, maple, oak, and walnut are all at risk from these invasive species.

More and more often, foresters are dealing with dead and dying trees that have fallen victim to an invasive species, resulting in destroyed habitat, economic loss of forest products and a void in cities, towns and natural areas once populated by thriving trees and forests.  Combating these pests and pathogens requires coordinating and   partnering with other natural resource agencies and organizations, local forest owners, federal and tribal forest owners, and private organizations to address the threats that face them, and together strategically working toward improving the health of America’s forests.

Working with Landowners
Information from the latest National Woodland Owners’ Survey shows that private and family forest owners hold nearly 60 percent of all the forest land in the United States.  However, the National Woodland Owners Survey points out that, only four percent of family forest owners report having a written management plan. With this in mind, state forestry agencies are improving forest health through increased communication and coordination among landowners.  

As a result, state Forest Action Plans have strategies focused on outreach and support to private forest landowners including strategies for enhancing the financial viability of damaged and destroyed forest ownership and for providing increased levels of customer service and technical assistance to diverse private forest landowners.  State forestry agencies deliver expertise and planning assistance to private landowners through the Forest Stewardship Program as well as conservation and ownership transition assistance provided through the Forest Legacy Program.

Pests and Disease
NASF is an active partner in many organizations seeking the detection and eradication of invasive forest pests and pathogens. NASF is on the steering committee of the Continental Dialogue on Non-Native Forests Insects and Diseases, which cultivates and catalyzes collaborative action among diverse interests to abate the threat to North American forests from non-native insects and diseases.  In addition NASF is a member of the Coalition Against Forest Pests and is pleased to partner with organizations like the American Forest Foundation, the National Plant Board and The Nature Conservancy as well as the USDA Forest Service.

Federal Program
A number of strategic approaches by state forestry agencies and the Forest Health program of the USDA Forest Service are helping to slow the spread of invasive species, restore damaged habitats, and educate the public. With funding from the USDA Forest Service’s Forest Health Management program, state and territorial forestry agencies use forest insect, disease and invasive plant survey and monitoring information, and technical and financial assistance to prevent, suppress and control outbreaks threatening forest resources. Forest Health Management uses science, active land management, and technology transfer expertise to restore and sustain forests across urban, private, state, tribal and federal lands.