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Restoring America's Forests

The Nature Conservancy’s goal for U.S. forests is to collaboratively accelerate the pace and scale of forest restoration to address threats to people, water, and wildlife.

Unfortunately the condition of America’s forests is currently degraded, along with the life-giving services these forests provide. The USDA Forest Service estimates that nearly 82 million acres of National Forest system lands are in need of restoration. Adding in other federal, state, private and tribal lands, The Nature Conservancy estimates the restoration backlog is 120 million acres (an area the size of California and West Virginia combined).

Restoration Solutions

The Nature Conservancy is actively working with federal land managers and other partners to put these solutions to work in restoring our North America forests and grasslands. These collaborative actions take four forms:

1. Collaborative Forest Demonstration Projects

The Nature Conservancy is demonstrating the value of forest restoration at 13 projects across the country with the Forest Service. Here we are testing ways to improve natural services for people, water and wildlife that can be duplicated elsewhere in our nation’s forests.

2. Local-to-National Forest Coalition

The Nature Conservancy is also working with partners to build a coalition of forest stakeholders — from the local to national level — that will work with lawmakers to translate lessons learned from the demonstration projects into federal policy and budget improvements. An example is the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Coalition, a nationwide 140-member group The Nature Conservancy helped initiate, which resulted in $40 million of federal forest restoration investment at 23 National Forest projects in 2012.

3. Improved Fire and Pest Management

We are also raising awareness among policy makers and the public about invasive insects and pathogens, and working to prevent their introduction into forests. One of these programs is the popular “Don’t Move Firewood” public outreach campaign.

4. Collaborative Planning and Implementation

The Nature Conservancy is facilitating the Fire Learning Network, a 10-year old cooperative program with the Forest Service and Department of the Interior to restore our nation’s forests and grasslands and make communities safer from fire. The FLN includes 47 public-private collaborations in 18 states through which stakeholders develop solutions to local fire problems. More than 370 public and private partners are engaged. The Network also sponsors training, planning and outreach activities in support of proactive fire management. 

Why Our Forests Need Restoration
  • A century of suppressing natural wildfires has left forests choked with fuel that can result in costly mega-fires.
  • 5 largest national fire years have all occurred since 2004.
  • As a nation we spend much more money fighting emergency fires than on creating healthy forests resilient to fire.
  • A forested area larger than Idaho is infected with destructive pests and diseases.
  • A legacy of poorly planned logging roads and sprawling development has split up forests. In the South, a North Carolina-sized forested area is projected to be lost to development by 2040.
  • Climate change is further knocking forests off-balance.

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