U.S. Sustainability Report

In 2003, the first National Report on Sustainable Forests reported on the state of forests in the United States of America (US) and the indicators of national progress toward the goal of sustainable forest management (SFM). A draft 2010 report was released in late 2009 and a final version is due to be released later in 2010.

The aim of the reports is to track United States progress against internationally agreed and recognised SFM standards. The reports assess progress against the SFM criteria and indicators endorsed by the Montreal Process (MP C&I), of which the United States is a member country.  The MP C&I consist of a total of 64 indicators grouped under seven "Thematic Criteria of Sustainable Forest Management":

  • Extent of forest resources
  • Biological diversity
  • Forest health and vitality
  • Productive functions and forest resources
  • Protective functions of forest resources
  • Socio-economic functions
  • Legal, policy and institutional framework

The 2010 report pulls together the efforts of many people within the United States, including more than thirty US Forest Service scientists and collaboration with universities, other agencies, and organizations. It draws on data from a wide range of sources, most notably the Forest Inventory and Analysis Program (FIA), a new annualized nationwide forest inventory system operated by the US Forest Service and partner State forestry agencies.

The 2010 update of the 2003 report has also been driven by a multi-stakeholder process reflecting contemporary notions of sustainability that require information beyond what has been traditionally collected and reported.

  • Key findings from the 2010 National Report on Sustainable Forests

    • Forest land area has remained essentially stable since 2003. In fact, total forest area has been relatively stable for the last 100 years while the U.S. population has nearly tripled. Gains in hardwood forests in the South and interior North have been largely offset by declines in forest area in the more developed coastal regions, particularly in softwood forests.
    • Current use of US forests is sustainable from the perspective of timber production capacity; the area of timberland is stable and timber stocking on these lands has been increasing.
    • An estimated 106 million acres of forest are in totally protected areas, representing 14% of all forest land. The area of protected forests on public lands has changed little since 2003. However, alternative ways of protecting forests through land trusts and conservation easements have been gaining popularity, accounting in total for over 10 million acres in 2005.
    • There are a wide variety of legal, institutional, and economic approaches that encourage sustainable forest management in the United States, at all levels of government. Public laws govern public lands, which comprise about one-third of the Nation’s forests, and dictate management and public involvement in various specific ways. Federal and state laws also provide for technical and financial assistance, research, education and planning on private forest lands, but they do not prescribe specific actions or standards. Federal and state environmental laws protect wildlife and endangered species in forests on all public and private lands, and foster various levels of forest practices regulation or best management practices to protect water quality, air quality, or other public goods depending on the states.
    • U.S. institutional capacity in support of sustainable forestry is, at minimum, stable. There is also evidence of growing collaboration between multiple organizations and stakeholders with the aim of strengthening understanding and informing actions in relation to forest sustainability.
    • However there are threats to forests emerging from outside the forestry sector. For example, there are indications that the area of forests impacted by fragmentation has been increasing at a steady rate. This is the result of urban development at the fringes of major population centres and also in rural areas where there has been growth in smaller centres and in the number of second homes.
    • There has also been a substantial increase in the levels of biotic disturbance and an increase in fire extent and intensity in recent years. Key factors for this change include higher incident of drought and the increasing density of forest stands owing to artificial fire suppression.